WellChoice, New York, is reportedly in advanced negotiations to acquire rival Oxford Health Plans, Trumbull, Conn., in an all-stock deal that would create an insurance powerhouse in the Northeast. Terms of the deal aren't known, according to the Wall Street Journal, which attributed the news to unnamed sources familiar with the companies. WellChoice is the parent of 4.8 million-member Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the nation's only remaining independent for-profit Blues plan. It has a market value of about $3 billion. Oxford, with a market value of $4 billion, covers 1.5 million members in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. Oxford officials could not be reached for comment. A WellChoice spokeswoman declined to comment.
Meanwhile, UnitedHealth Group, Minneapolis, agreed to acquire the HMO business of provider-owned Touchpoint Health Plan, Appleton, Wis., for $40 million. The 137,000-member HMO earned $5.5 million on revenue of $317 million last year. Touchpoint is owned by three-hospital ThedaCare, Appleton; Bellin Health System, Green Bay, Wis.; and a group of independent physicians. Its 165,000-member PPO is not part of the deal. UnitedHealth, the nation's largest health insurer with 17 million members, acquired Mid-Atlantic Medical Services, Rockville, Md., in February and Golden Rule Financial Corp., Lawrenceville, Ill., in September 2003. Separately, Humana, Louisville, Ky., completed its acquisition of 188,000-member Ochsner Health Plan from Ochsner Clinic Foundation, New Orleans. Terms of the deal, announced in December 2003, weren't disclosed; Wachovia Securities, however, pegged the value of the Ochsner HMO at $48 million to $92 million. Humana covers 6.8 million members in 18 states and Puerto Rico. -- by Laura B. Benko