Cigna Buys Express Scripts

The $54 billion purchase was finalized just a few hours ago.

Cigna wasted little time trying to calm any fears that the deal could be harmful to patients in the long run. It loaded the first paragraph of its press release on the purchase with an announcement that it plans to donate $200 million to local charities and communities across the nation. In addition, it is launching an effort to help children that it’s calling Healthier Kids for Our Future.

And about the deal itself?

“We believe that this combination will also deliver sustained attractive return for shareholders in a highly dynamic health care market,” David M. Cordani, Cigna’s president and CEO, said in the statement. “We are significantly expanding our distribution reach and addressable markets, firmly positioning Cigna for future revenue and earnings growth. We expect continued strong margins and free cash flows, which will enable us to rapidly reduce our debt levels and reinvest in our business, while having additional capital available for deployment.”

Forbes reports that “insurers like Cigna are closing ranks around a model that brings the PBM closer to the health plan in hopes of creating a savvier buyer of prescription medicines while seeking more transparency. UnitedHealth Group already owns OptumRx, a fast-growing PBM and CVS Health, which owns the Caremark PBM, is nearing completion of its acquisition of Aetna, the nation’s third largest health insurer.”

Of course, as Managed Care reported last month, insurers are on a shopping spree for providers, and vice versa. CVS Health wants to buy Aetna for $68 billion, but that one’s not going as smoothly as the Cigna-Express Scripts deal. Saying he refuses to be a “rubber stamp,” U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said that the CVS Health-Aetna deal cannot go through until he examines the antitrust agreement that CVS Health and Aetna struck with the government, and that could take months.