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The health insurance deal went public Thursday morning. Photo: James Leynse / Corbis via Getty Images

Health insurer Cigna has agreed to buy pharmacy benefit giant Express Scripts for $52 billion in cash and stock. Including debt, the deal is valued at $67 billion. The Wall Street Journal first reported about the deal Wednesday night.

The big picture: The health care industry continues to consolidate at a breakneck pace. CVS Health and Aetna are attempting to combine in a similar tie-up of health insurance and pharmacy benefit management. Numerous hospital systems and other health care companies also are rushing to merge in what has become an all-out turf war.

Driving the news: Anthem split ways with Express Scripts after Anthem said Express Scripts pocketed "obscene" profits from their prescription drug contract.

  • Because Express Scripts lost a highly profitable drug plan client, which drove a lot of negativity on Wall Street, Express Scripts became a takeover target.
  • We previously reported that Cigna had a lot of cash to spend and made it clear it would be on the prowl for some kind of deal after its merger with Anthem flopped. But it appears Medicare rival Humana is not on the table for now.
  • Health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers have been aligning more, like CVS and Aetna, in an attempt to save costs on drugs.
  • Yes, but: What's old is new again.

Go deeper

Updated 1 min ago - Politics & Policy

Reports: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire

Justice Stephen Breyer. Photo: MANDEL NGAN / AFP via Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will retire, NBC news first reported and multiple outlets confirmed on Wednesday, giving President Biden his first — and maybe only — chance to put a stamp on the high court.

What’s next: Appointing a new Supreme Court justice will be one of the longest-lasting pieces of Biden’s legacy — and could give Democrats a jolt of energy ahead of next year's midterms.

26 mins ago - Science

Blizzard likely to hit New England this weekend as "bomb cyclone" forms

Computer model projection of the precipitation and wind field from the weekend storm in the Northeast. (Earth.nullschool.net)

A powerful blizzard is likely to strike parts of New England and the Mid-Atlantic beginning Friday and lasting into the weekend, with snow totals that are likely to be measured in feet.

The big picture: The joining of weather systems embedded in both the polar, or northern branch, of the jet stream and the southern branch is projected to create a bomb cyclone. Such storms undergo a process known as bombogenesis, with their minimum central air pressure readings plunging at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.

Schools desperate for substitute teachers

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

School districts and officials nationwide are begging parents to step in, loosening requirements for substitute teachers and, in one case, asking the National Guard for help as last-ditch efforts to stay open amid the latest COVID-19 surge.

Why it matters: Substitute teachers have emerged as a vital part of schools' reopening efforts, but they are in short supply after years of being overlooked and undervalued.