Internet health care company Healtheon/WebMD (HLTH) and managed care company Humana (HUM) - Get Humana Inc. Report have inked a strategic partnership under which Healtheon/WebMD will provide Humana with both Web content and transaction processing services, the companies said Wednesday.
The agreement comes as many health care companies are seeking ways to utilize the Web, analysts said. "Virtually all managed care companies are trying to become consumer-friendly and reduce administrative costs using the Internet," said Lori Price, who covers Humana for
CIBC World Markets
"Our goal is to become a truly Web-enabled, customer-focused health care company," said David A. Jones, chairman and interim chief executive officer at Humana, in a statement.
For Healtheon/WebMD, the agreement gives the company entree to one of the largest managed care companies in the country, noted Jeffrey Peters, analyst at
Dain Rauscher Wessels
in Minneapolis. "What it does is provide a very important base to sell their content and their transaction processing services," Peters said, noting that the company has a similar agreement with another large managed care company,
The deal covers everything from Web content to joint marketing and claims processing. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Humana stock has languished for the last year as the company's transition from a health maintenance organization to a more open-access approach stumbled over pricing issues, Price said. Humana shares rose on the news, jumping 1/8, or 2%, to 8 3/8 in early morning trading. Healtheon/WebMD slipped 11/16, or 2%, to 39 1/4. (Healtheon/WebMD finished down 1 7/16, or 4%, to 38 1/2, while Humana settled up 3/16, or 2%, to 8 7/16.)
CIBC's Price rates Humana a buy; her firm has not done any underwriting. Peters rates Healtheon/WebMD a buy; Dain Rauscher Wessels hasn't done any underwriting for the company.
The partnership comes on the heels of a separate
agreement Healtheon/WebMD struck with
earlier this week.