The agreement, announced by the Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna, "would bolster Aetna's presence in the state- and federally funded Medicaid program and Tricare coverage for military personnel and their families," according to The Associated Press.
Word of the cash and stock agreement comes a day after Centene said it would pay $6.3 billion to buy Health Net. According to the AP, the Centene-Health Net merger "would help Centene expand in the nation's biggest Medicaid market, California, and give it a Medicare presence in several Western states."
Reuters notes that the deal between Aetna and Humana "will push Aetna close to Anthem Inc.'s No. 2 insurer spot by membership and would nearly triple Aetna's Medicare Advantage business," but adds that the agreement still faces antitrust scrutiny.
In theory, a consolidation of the insurance industry in the wake of Obamacare is supposed to lower costs for consumers. But Forbes quotes Martin Gaynor, a Carnegie Mellon economist and former Federal Trade Commission official, as saying: "It's not clear to me, do they get any more scale economies from getting bigger?"
Forbes also quotes Robert Town, a health care professor at the Wharton School, as saying consolidation among giant insurers reminds him "of the airline sector, and I don't think there have been efficiencies gained there."
"The economies of scale in insurance are relatively modest," Town said.