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Centene To Acquire Illinois HMO’s 54,000 Medicaid Enrollees

Centene said Tuesday it will acquire the membership of NextLevel Health Partners, which serves about 54,000 Medicaid members in Chicago’s Cook County.

The deal is important to Centene, which continues to gain share in key U.S. markets across the country and NextLevel has a substantial presence and doctor network in the Chicago market. The NextLevel membership will exist under Centene’s Illinois subsidiary, Meridian Health Plan of Illinois.

Under the agreement, Meridian will be assigned 100% of NextLevel’s approximately 54,000 members who access benefits from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ HealthChoice Illinois Program,” Centene said in a statement. “As part of the agreement, Meridian has executed a care coordination agreement with NLHP to ensure continuity of care for a subset of the assigned membership, effective concurrently with the closing of the transaction.”

Centene said it provided an undisclosed amount of “initial capital” NextLevel needed to get an HMO licensure at the end of 2017, which the insurer said enabled “a minority-owned and -operated health plan to participate in the Illinois Medicaid program.” Following that investment, Centene said it has continued to provide “operational support” to NextLevel.  

“We are pleased to continue to support NextLevel Health Partners by entering into a care coordination agreement, while expanding our presence in Cook County and working with our members, providers and government partners to achieve better health outcomes at lower costs for the state of Illinois,” Centene chairman and chief executive Michael Neidorff. said. “We look forward to leveraging our scale and continuing to grow our relationships with these valued partners.”

Financial terms of the deal, which is expected to close next month, weren’t disclosed.

NextLevel has been trying to work out a deal with bigger players. Earlier this year, an acquisition by Molina Healthcare was called off. Molina had agreed to pay $50 million to buy Chicago-based Medicaid health plan NextLevel Health Partners.

NextLevel’s chief executive said she was happy the care of the plan’s members would continue to be coordinated.

“NextLevel Health’s local, community-based approach combines a culturally sensitive lens and the recognition of social determinants of health,” Dr. Cheryl Whitaker, Chief Executive Officer of NextLevel Health Partners said in a statement. “We are pleased to transition to providing care coordination to help ensure our members continue receiving quality care that improves the health of communities across Cook County.”

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