Health insurer Anthem, the parent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield, is buying rival Cigna for $48 billion in a deal that would create the nation’s largest health insurer by enrollment, covering about 53 million Americans.
Anthem, based in Indianapolis, is currently the nation’s second-largest health insurer, while Cigna ranks fourth in terms of enrollment.
Anthem specializes in selling individual coverage and insurance to workers of small businesses. It also has grown its government business, which includes Medicare, Medicaid and coverage of federal employees.
Health insurance is Cigna’s main business, but it also sells group disability and life coverage in the U.S., and it has a growing international segment that Anthem lacks. Much of Cigna’s health insurance business involves coverage where the employer pays the claims and then hires Cigna to administer the plan, a growing and less-profitable form of coverage in employer-sponsored health care.
The trick: no one knows for at least a year what this will mean for their health insurance coverage. The impact these big acquisitions have on consumers likely won’t be felt until mid-2016, because insurers have already finalized most of their plans for coverage that starts in January.