LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville-based Humana Inc., normally loathe to comment on merger rumors, said Monday morning that it will not pursue a combination with St. Louis-based health insurer Centene.

Humana said in a regulatory filing that it was making a “one-time exception” to its policy not to comment on potential business deals “in light of the significant investor speculation and persistent market rumors” about a merger with Centene.

In May, Reuters reported that some Centene investors were pushing for a Humana tie-up as an alternative to Centene’s plan, announced in March, to buy WellCare Health Plans, Inc.

Ana Gupte, an analyst with SVB Leerink, said in a note to clients that Humana’s statement Monday “should offer closure on months’ long speculation on a possible combination” with Centene.

Gupte last month expressed skepticism about Humana’s interest in Centene, noting that Humana CEO Bruce Broussard indicated in May that the company was content to grow through normal expansion when asked about the Centene-WellCare deal on an earnings conference call.

“We continue to be confident in our organic direction,” Broussard said on the May 1 call.

Centene specializes in Medicaid managed care, contracting with states to provide government health insurance to low-income residents.

Humana, which specializes in private Medicare plans for seniors, is looking to beef up its Medicaid business, but has other means to do so besides buying Centene, Gupte said in a note to clients on May 7.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2019 WDRB News. All rights reserved.