Aetna sells off its Medicare Part D business to WellCare

Aetna, which is in talks with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding anticipated approvals in the coming days or months, said it believes the divestiture is "a significant step toward completing the DOJ's review" of the deal.

(AET) to acquire the latter's entire standalone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan business, effective December 31.

Aetna's standalone Medicare Part D members will continue to be covered by Aetna through the rest of the year.

A subsidiary of WellCare, which offers a Medicare Advantage HMO in CT and recently filed for approval to offer a Medicare Advantage PPO, is buying Aetna's plan for an undisclosed sum.

In SEC filings, Aetna explained that WellCare will own Aetna's national Part D business operations in 2020, which is not likely to impact Aetna's other Medicare-sponsored business products.

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For its part, CVS has held that its Aetna acquisition would not harm competition.

The deal is now being reviewed by the Department of Justice.

Two years ago, the DOJ still blocked Aetna's proposed $37-billion acquisition of Humana, despite an offer from the firms to divest part of their overlapping Medicare Advantage businesses covering almost 300,000 people in a sale to Molina Health, on the grounds that their merger would be anti-competitive. The purchase is subject to the closing of the $69 billion CVS-Aetna merger, which is expected to close by the end of the year.

CVS said in a separate filing it expects the Aetna deal to close in the early part of the fourth quarter. Aetna said Thursday that expectation remains in place.

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