Merger mania: Aetna bids for Humana; Cigna may want it too; Anthem has bid for Cigna; UnitedHealth makes a play for Aetna

Aetna Inc. has made a bid to buy Louisville-based Humana Inc.,”one of a number of recent moves by big health insurers to find merger partners,” Dana Mattioli and Liz Hoffman report for The Wall Street Journal.

The proposal was made in “the last few days,” the Journal reports. “It isn’t clear how much Aetna indicated it would pay. Humana has a market value of $30 billion. The company hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to help it field takeover interest, people familiar with the matter have said.”

Meanwhile, Aetna has been approached by another big insurer, UnitedHealth Group. “It isn’t clear what, if any, Aetna’s response was,” the Journal reports. “News of the Aetna proposal comes the same day Anthem Inc., another of the five big managed-care companies, said it boosted its takeover offer for Cigna Corp.,”offering $47.5 billion. “Anthem went public with the bid after the two sides failed to reach agreement, and is seeking to put pressure on Cigna through Cigna shareholders.”

“Cigna itself is eyeing Humana, people familiar with the matter have said. The five big managed-care companies are jockeying for deals that will enable them to get more efficient and better respond to changes in the health care landscape in the U.S.,” the Journal reports.

“Humana, which has an estimated 12,000 employees and roughly 2,000 contractors in Louisville and the immediate region, has been seen as an attractive target in the health-insurance industry because of its well-run business running Medicare Advantage programs,” Grace Schneider reports for The Courier-Journal. The company is valued at $30 billion.

“The company’s membership rolls have surged to more than 3 million in the last year,” Schneider writes. “That growth comes when health care reform has forced providers — hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, among them — to consolidate to increase their leverage and clout in an increasingly competitive health care segment. For the same reason, health insurers are now looking to consolidate.”

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