Centene's Neidorff says WellCare acquisition continues to pace ahead of schedule

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Centene posted its third-quarter earnings Tuesday morning. (Getty/monsitj)

St. Louis-based Centene Corporation's acquisition of WellCare Health Plans continues to move forward at a brisk pace, officials said Tuesday.

Centene CEO Michael Neidorff said on the company's third-quarter earnings call that the deal has earned approval from all but two needed states: Illinois and New Jersey. The merger is targeting closure in the first half of 2020.

In the second quarter, leaders at Centene said the deal was pacing ahead of schedule. Neidorff reiterated that on Tuesday's call, saying the deal could close earlier in the year. If the $17 billion deal is finalized, it would create one of the nation's largest sponsors of government health coverage.

Centene announced Tuesday alongside its earnings that New York insurance regulators had signed off on the deal. That comes after they announced last week that regulators in five more states—bringing the total to more than two dozen states—have given the deal the OK.

Neidorff added that the deal also reached a crucial milestone recently, as WellCare reached an agreement with Anthem to divest its Medicaid managed care business in Missouri and Nebraska. The two companies are hard at work on building an integration strategy to ensure a "smooth and seamless" transition, he said.

RELATED: Centene, WellCare get OK from 5 states for $17B merger

Centene posted $95 million in profit for the third quarter of 2019, a figure that skyrocketed from $19 million in the same quarter last year. 

That is earnings of 23 cents per share, or 96 cents adjusted, Centene said in its earnings report Tuesday morning. Wall Street analysts had predicted earnings of 95 cents per share.

The insurer also reported $18.9 billion in revenue for the quarter, up 17% from $16.2 billion last year. That also beat Street expectations that projected revenue of about $18.7 billion.

"We are pleased with our third-quarter results which reflect growth in our marketplace business, Medicaid business, and new programs, demonstrating the benefits of our diversification strategy on our healthcare enterprise," Centene CEO Michael Neidorff said. "Looking ahead, we will continue to further enhance our leadership position in government-sponsored healthcare."

Centene said its membership was up notably across its business sectors through the first nine months of 2019, particularly in its Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange plans. Membership in ACA plans through Sept. 30 was 1.86 million, up from 1.5 million in 2018.