Centene Corp.’s planned acquisition of WellCare Health Plans, Inc., a $17 billion move that would create a managed Medicaid behemoth and a serious contender in the Medicare Advantage ring, is close to being a done deal. In December, the insurers received regulatory approval from the final states needed to move forward, bringing the total number to 27. The Department of Justice has yet to approve the deal, but Centene CEO Michael Neidorff on Dec. 5 informed attendees of the Forbes Healthcare Summit that he has “told the team to be ready for full integration by January 1,” and expects the deal to close in the first half of 2020. Not only will the combined company be No. 1 in Medicaid, with about 10.2 million enrollees (both Centene and WellCare are divesting their Medicaid plans in three state markets to ease antitrust concerns, see graphics below), it will also snag the No. 6 spot in the national MA market.