WellCare expanding N.J. Medicaid presence with Healthfirst acquisition

WellCare Health Plans, a growing manager of government-sponsored health plans for the poor and seniors, said it has reached an agreement to acquire Healthfirst NJ’s roster of Medicaid members and physicians.

Healthfirst NJ, also a managed care organization, currently serves about 47,000 Medicaid members across 12 counties in New Jersey. Terms of the deal weren’t revealed, but Tampa, Fla.-based WellCare said it expects it to close during the first quarter of 2014.

“New Jersey’s health care goals and policies align well with our strategic focus on the Medicaid and Medicare populations,” Alec Cunningham, chief executive of WellCare, said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with the state to deliver quality, cost-effective health care solutions for New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents.”

The Healthfirst acquisition follows another WellCare expansion into New Jersey’s Medicaid program, the government-funded health plan for the poor and disabled. The company said it recently gained state approval – and is awaiting the same from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services – to offer Medicaid managed care in Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Passaic and Union counties starting Dec. 1. WellCare also serves 2,000 Medicare Advantage members and 14,000 Medicare Part D beneficiaries in New Jersey, the company said.

Healthfirst members won’t see any changes to their 2013 benefits, a WellCare spokeswoman said. The company will work with Healthfirst to “ensure a smooth transition” for the group’s members, she added.

Healthfirst NJ is a Newark-based subsidiary of Healthfirst, a non-profit group in New York. Following the acquisition, Healthfirst NJ plans to wind down its operations, WellCare said in the deal announcement. It could not be determined how many employees Healthfirst has in New Jersey, but a WellCare spokeswoman said the company will consider them for positions in the state after the deal closes. Healthfirst officials did not return calls today.

WellCare has been buying up Medicaid businesses in other states as the federal government is set to increase payments to those states that will expand their Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this year, WellCare wrapped its takeovers of UnitedHealthcare’s Medicaid business in South Carolina and Aetna’s Medicaid business in Missouri.

Source : http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2013/09/wellcare_expanding_nj_medicaid.html

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