Centene and Ascension plan to launch a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan together starting in 2020, the companies announced Monday.
The two healthcare giants signed a letter of intent to explore a joint venture, according to the announcement. The plan would become Centene and Ascension’s preferred model in several geographic markets, though the companies did not specify which markets they plan to target.
In a statement, Ascension President and CEO Anthony Tersigni said the venture “aligns with our mission of serving those who are vulnerable and struggling the most, which all too often includes our seniors.”
Similarly, Centene CEO and Chairman Michael Neidorff said Centene and Ascension “share a commitment of serving the underserved and intend to leverage the best capabilities of both organizations to provide high quality, affordable healthcare to support the needs of low-income seniors.”
Based in St. Louis, Ascension is the largest Catholic healthcare system in the country, with sites of care in 22 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to traditional healthcare, Ascension provides social services, senior services, counseling and support groups, which may align well with supplemental MA plan benefits.
In last week's earnings call, Neidorff hinted at a pending deal aimed at increasing the company's inorganic Medicare growth, but he declined to discuss details "from a competitive standpoint."
Recent acquisitions could serve the insurer well in its joint venture with Ascension. Earlier this year, Centene acquired Community Medical Group, a primary care provider that serves Medicaid, Marketplace and MA patients in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Miami-Dade County has the second-highest MA enrollment rate in the country, with 65% of Medicare-eligible individuals enrolled in an MA plan. (It ranks behind Red Lake County, Minnesota, and is tied with Meeker County, Minnesota; Monroe County, New York; and Todd County, Minnesota.)