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Providence St. Joseph Health, Ascension in merger talks: report

CVS plans to buy Aetna
CVS plans to buy Aetna 02:10

Hospital operators Ascension Health and Providence St. Joseph Health are in talks to merge in a deal that would create the nation's largest hospital chain, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing an unnamed source. The combined entity would have almost $45 billion a year in revenue, according to the paper.

Both Ascension, which is based in St. Louis, and Providence, in Washington State, are nonprofits. That status makes them exempt from paying some taxes, but also requires them to offer services that benefit their communities. 

A merger of the two would create a chain of 191 hospitals across 27 states, larger than the current top hospital operator, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). HCA has 177 hospitals and had $41.5 billion in revenue last year, according to Modern Healthcare.

The move in the latest in a tussle between insurers and hospitals for market share. Earlier this year, a planned merger between health insurers Aetna and Humana was blocked by a federal court

In another proposed combination that is shaking up the industry, Aetna (AET) and CVS (CVSannounced a merger earlier this month that would form a $69 billion health care company. That deal represents a deeper move into consumer care for CVS, which runs over a thousand walk-in clinics inside its stores and is the second-largest pharmacy benefits manager in the nation. 

Amazon (AMZN) is also showing signs of moving into the pharmacy business, receiving pharmacy licenses in at least 12 states.

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