Health insurance titan Anthem announced one of last year’s biggest acquisitions with a proposed $54 billion deal to buy competitor Cigna. While Cigna has recently warned that the deal may not close in 2016, the combined company would leapfrog UnitedHealth Group to become the nation’s largest insurer if approved. Anthem, which has more than 38 million people enrolled in its various health plans and boasted $62 billion in 2014 assets, has stood apart from prominent rivals when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Rival UnitedHealth recently announced it would be departing from all but a “handful” of the health law’s statewide insurance markets; by contrast, Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish told investors in April that a “sustainable market can be built” for the Obamacare exchanges. The company has also been locking horns with pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) Express Scripts, the number one provider of such prescription drug services in the U.S. Swedish made waves during this year’s annual JPMorgan Healthcare Conference when he claimed that Scripts was failing to pass on billions in savings from its price negotiations with drugmakers and threatened to break ties with the PBM (Anthem is Scripts’ biggest client). The contract dispute has grown increasingly nasty, with Anthem suing Express Scripts in March for $15 billion in damages and the right to terminate a 10-year contract with the benefits manager; Scripts promptly countersued Anthem in April 2016.
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