LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The federal judge who will determine the fate of the $37 billion acquisition of Louisville-based Humana likely will not rule until January, according to Bloomberg and Dow Jones Business News.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John Bates set a Dec. 5 trial date -- later than Humana and its purchaser Aetna had sought. The companies were trying to preserve the possibility that they could close the deal by their year-end deadline, but Bates said in court that he would probably not decide on the case until mid-January.

The companies could agree to extend the merger deadline. Or, Humana could walk away from the deal if it is not closed by Dec. 31 and collect a $1 billion break-up fee from Aetna.

Bates set aside two weeks for the trial. 

The Justice Department sued on July 21 to block Aetna from buying Humana, citing decreased competition in the market for Medicare Advantage plans sold to seniors. 

Related: SUNDAY EDITION | If government kills Humana deal, would Louisville be better off?

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