Aetna's pullout of the Obamacare exchanges in 11 states was "retaliation" to the administration blocking the insurer's merger with competitor Humana, Democrats charged Wednesday. The charges came after the Huffington Post reported on a letter in which Aetna's CEO supposedly had "threatened" to pull out unless the government approved the merger.

HuffPo reporters write of Aetna's CEO Mark Bertolini: "he made a clear threat: If President Barack Obama's administration refused to allow the merger to proceed, he wrote, Aetna would be in worse financial position and would have to withdraw from most of its Obamacare markets, and quite likely all of them."

It turns out this "threat" was a direct answer to a question the DOJ ordered Aetna to answer.

"Explain how [the transaction being blocked] affect Aetna's business strategy and operations, including Aetna's participation on the public exchanges related to the Affordable Care Act and any products or geographic areas in which Aetna may withdraw or reduce operations," the DOJ demanded.

Here's the relevant block of text from DOJ's letter.

HuffPo posted the letter from Aetna online. Below is the full letter from DOJ.

Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at His column appears Tuesday and Thursday nights on

Humana transaction