The combined company will haveabout $30 billion in drug spending, making it a major player in thepharmacy-benefit management market.

Health insurer Centene Corp. agreed to buy managed-care providerWellCare Health Plans Inc. for more than $15 billion, expanding inthe market for government insurance plans just as politicians inWashington appear to be gearing up for another health-policy clash.

Centene, based in St. Louis, offered $305.39 per share in cashand stock for Tampa, Florida-based WellCare, the companies said ina statement Wednesday. The boards of both companies backed thetransaction, which has an enterprise value of $17.3 billion. Dealtalks between Centene and WellCare were first reported by Bloombergon Tuesday.

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