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Ed Reinke / AP

Aetna's deal for Humana went down in flames, and the Anthem-Cigna merger now has even grimmer prospects of getting approved. But that doesn't mean there won't be any more deals among the largest health insurance companies.

If anything, the industry would reset to where it was back in early 2015 — when Anthem and Cigna both tried to acquire Humana before Aetna. Humana remains a prized asset, considering the $55 billion company has roughly 3.2 million Medicare Advantage enrollees and another 5 million seniors enrolled in Medicare prescription drug plans.

What to look for: Assuming Aetna and Humana either don't bother with or lose an appeal of the judge's ruling, Humana will be back on the market. If the Anthem-Cigna deal also falls through, as antitrust experts predict, both companies could turn their attention to bidding for Humana again. Anthem and Cigna would likely have an easier time buying out Humana because, unlike Aetna, they have smaller Medicare Advantage footprints and less overlap. Many analysts and consultants believe Medicare Advantage is the safest program to be in right now.

"We believe that both (Anthem) and (Cigna) view Medicare as attractive — and both could look to bolster their presence," Christine Arnold, an analyst at Cowen and Company, said in an investor note Tuesday.

However, Josh Raskin at Barclays adds that Anthem and Cigna could face "significant challenges in acquiring Humana." Their divestiture of Medicare Advantage members would have to be more appealing than Aetna's proposal to Molina Healthcare to ease antitrust concerns.

That's not all: Aetna, Anthem, Cigna and Humana could try to scoop up other smaller insurers that specialize in government health care, such as WellCare Health Plans. Medicare and Medicaid are by far growing the most for health insurers, making those niche companies desirable.

Go deeper

Twitter labels tweet from RT implying voter fraud in U.S. elections

Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Twitter on Thursday labeled a tweet from Russian state media outlet RT (formerly Russia Today) that included a video implying widespread voter fraud is plaguing, and potentially delegitimizing, the U.S. election.

Why it matters: It's the first time Twitter has labeled RT's account with a civic integrity label, or a designation used to highlight efforts to manipulate or interfere in elections or other civic processes.

59 mins ago - Health

U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record

Expand chart
Data: COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

The United States reported 88,452 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The country confirmed 1,049 additional deaths due to the virus, and there are over 46,000 people currently being hospitalized, suggesting the U.S. is experiencing a third wave heading into the winter months.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day.
  2. Politics: Top HHS spokesperson pitched coronavirus ad campaign as "helping the president" — Space Force's No. 2 general tests positive for coronavirus.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. Sports: MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.
  5. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.