UPDATE: Jan. 23, 2020: The companies said Thursday morning the deal was complete and WellCare common stock would cease trading at the end of the day.
- Centene said Tuesday it has satisfied all regulatory approvals necessary to complete its $17 billion acquisition of rival WellCare, including review by the U.S. Department of Justice.
- When the deal is completed, it will include previously announced divestitures of WellCare's Medicaid plans in Missouri and Nebraska and Medicare Advantage plans in Missouri as well as Centene's Medicaid and MA plans in Illinois.
- The deal is expected to close Thursday, according to a statement from Centene CEO Michael Neidorff.
Once official, the blockbuster acquisition will make Centene the country's third-largest publicly traded managed care company and double its Medicare footprint.
The company has continued to bolster its footprint in the government sector throughout the years. "It was a nice way to build a niche business versus competing with the commercial players," Neidorff told Healthcare Dive last month.
Neidorff said in the statement Tuesday the companies were pleased to achieve the regulatory approval milestone — 10 months after the acquisition plans were first announced. "We have been working diligently on the integration plans to bring our organizations together so that it is seamless for members, providers and employees of both companies," he said.
The deal immediately raised antitrust concerns, as both Centene and WellCare served Medicaid beneficiaries in the same nine states and had significant overlap in certain markets. The American Hospital Association asked for a review of the buy, saying it threatened "to reduce competition in delivery of Medicaid Managed Care and Medicare Advantage services to tens of millions of consumers across broad swaths of the country."
Shareholders overwhelmingly approved the deal in June and the companies continued their quest for state and federal regulatory nods, partly through agreements to sell some plans.
Centene said last month it would be divesting its Illinois health plan subsidiary, which included Medicaid and MA plans, to CVS Health. It retained ownership of its Medicare-Medicaid Alignment Initiative and its commercial Affordable Care Act marketplace business was not affected.
WellCare's Medicaid plans in Nebraska and Missouri went to Anthem.