- Aetna is poised to make an offer on either Cigna or Humana, according to some investors.
- Leerink Partners hosted an investor meeting Monday at Aetna's headquarters during which Leerink's Ana Gupte said consolidation seemed likely.
- Gupte reported that Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini's asserted that "...government business is the focus for inorganic growth, while compatible cultures for post-merger synergies were viewed as the driver in all transactions, with cheap debt making either Aetna-Humana and Aetna-Cigna meaningfully accretive possibilities and imminent."
The incentive here may stem from the current boom in Medicare business. Aetna's focus has traditionally been on employer-sponsored health plans, which right now don't have the growth potential that public payer plans do. Humana, meanwhile, is a behemoth in the that market—it's the leading Medicare health benefits provider in Florida, for example, with nearly 900,000 Medicare members statewide. Investors.com suggests that Aetna might offer to acquire Humana for as much as $200 per share (Humana's stock ended Tuesday at almost $172 per share, and Cigna shares were also up at the end of Tuesday.)
Aside from the possible merger, Gupte also suggested a few other reasons that she believes Aetna is poised for a big year, including public exchanges that seem well-positioned for good margins. According to Gupte, Aetna's team sees any outcome of King v. Burwell—even a negative one—as the vehicle for a legislative fix for healthcare reform. In addition, Gupte suggested that Aetna's aggressive investment into ACOs is "gaining steam with health systems and providers catalyzed by the CMS proposed regulation to value-based care."