WellCare, Centene Are Said to Bid for Aetna Medicare Assets

  • Aetna seeks antitrust approval of Humana deal with asset sales
  • Insurer presented divestiture plan to Justice officials Friday

Health insurers including WellCare Health Plans Inc. and Centene Corp. have offered to buy assets that Aetna Inc. may have to sell to gain regulatory approval for its proposed $37 billion takeover of Humana Inc., a person familiar with the matter said.

WellCare and Centene have separately bid for Aetna’s Medicare Advantage policies that are up for sale, covering about 350,000 people. Other health insurers are eyeing pieces of the business, the person said Saturday. Aetna covers about 1.3 million people in Medicare Advantage plans, while Humana covers 3.2 million.

Aetna presented the divestiture plan on Friday at a meeting with Justice Department antitrust officials. The insurer is seeking to show that there’s sufficient competition in the market for private health plans for the elderly to allow the Humana deal to go forward.

Reuters reported earlier Saturday on WellCare and Centene’s interest in the Aetna assets. Aetna declined to comment, and representatives of WellCare didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Centene doesn’t comment on rumors, Marcela Hawn, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. The company also has a policy not to participate in auctions, she said.

Aetna had been working with advisers to prepare to sell assets worth several billion dollars if it’s able to complete the deal with Humana, people familiar with the plans said last week.

The Justice Department also is scrutinizing Anthem Inc.’s proposed $48 billion deal to buy Cigna Corp. Together, the two acquisitions would reduce the ranks of the biggest U.S. health insurers to three from five.

(Adds Centene comment in fifth paragraph.)

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