Bloomberg—Aetna Inc. hasn't lost its appetite for big acquisitions, the health insurer's chief financial officer said, amid multibillion dollar deals by rivals including WellPoint Inc. and Cigna Corp.

Aetna, the third-biggest U.S. health plan, has access to financing to pull off a purchase even after approving $750 million in additional share repurchases last week, CFO Joseph Zubretsky said in a telephone interview today.

WellPoint said this month it would buy Medicaid insurer Amerigroup Corp. for $4.9 billion, and Cigna bought Medicare specialist Healthspring Inc. for $3.8 billion in January. While Aetna sees other Medicaid-management companies as too expensive right now, the Hartford, Connecticut-based company isn't swearing off similar deals, Zubretsky said.

"We're agnostic as to size," the CFO said. "And we can use our balance sheet and the capital markets to advance something bigger. It's just a question of strategic fit."

Aetna fell less than 1 percent to $36.81 at 12:06 p.m. in New York trading.

Medicare is the U.S. government health plan for the elderly and disabled while Medicaid is a joint federal-state program for the poor. Through yesterday, Medicaid insurer Centene Corp. had risen 35 percent since WellPoint announced the Amerigroup purchase July 9. WellCare Health Plans Inc., which specializes in both programs, had gained 27 percent.

WellCare is based in Tampa, Florida, while Centene is based in St. Louis. Wellpoint is based in Indianapolis.

Second-quarter net income fell 15 percent to $457.6 million, or $1.32 a share, Aetna said in a statement earlier today. That beat analyst estimates. The insurer also raised the upper end of its full-year profit forecast, citing growing Medicare rolls along with improved profit margins.

(Editors: Bruce Rule, Angela Zimm)

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