Aetna Inc. said it agreed to sell its Medicare drug plan business to WellCare Health Plans Inc., as the company waits for its merger with CVS Health Corp. to be approved by federal and state officials The deal with WellCare will be effective at the end of this year, Aetna said in a regulatory filing Thursday, adding that “the purchase price is not material.”
The announcement marks a significant step forward for CVS's planned acquisition of Aetna, a nearly $70 billion deal that will unite the third biggest health insurer with the drugstore and pharmacy-benefit company.
The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Justice Department antitrust enforcers were preparing to give the green light to the deal, and that WellCare was in talks to acquire Medicare drug plan assets from the merger partners. The closing of the divestiture is dependent on the closing of the CVS-Aetna deal.
CVS said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Thursday that it still expects its deal with Aetna to close in the earlier part of the fourth quarter.
The Justice Department antitrust officials already gave a nod to Cigna Corp.'s acquisition of Express Scripts Holding Co., which also brings together a major health insurer with a pharmacy-benefit manager.
In the case of the CVSAetna deal, the two companies operate in largely different businesses, with their most direct overlap coming in selling the Medicare prescription- drug program, known as Part D.