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WellCare: Possible Takeover Target

Wellcare Health Plans Inc.’s stock price jumped Thursday and opened at more than $67 a share on Friday following a report that the company will likely be acquired within the next 18 to 24 months. 

The most likely buyers are Cigna and Aetna, according to Leerink analyst Ana Gupte, the Tampa Bay Business Journalreports. Other analysts have suggested interest in WellCare by those mega-insurers in past years, however, and it hasn't happened yet.

WellCare’s stock gained 2.5 percent, closing Thursday at $66.95.  The company is headquartered in Tampa Bay and provides managed care services on government contracts.

WellCare is Florida's largest Medicaid HMO. That means WellCare has a great deal riding on Florida’s decision on Medicaid expansion, in that it could add a substantial number of enrollees if the state took federal money to cover them. So far, the legislature has said no.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.