Baltimore-based insurer CareFirst Blue Cross and Blue Shield is entering the Medicaid managed-care market with acquisitions of two small Medicaid plans in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

CareFirst said it reached separate agreements to buy Trusted Health Plan in D.C. and University of Maryland Health Partners in Baltimore. Health Partners is owned by the University of Maryland Medical System. Combined, the Medicaid managed-care organizations serve about 81,000 people.

“Our unique not-for-profit mission calls on us to provide access to affordable health coverage and to support public and private initiatives that provide coverage for the individuals and families in the communities we serve,” CareFirst CEO Brian Pieninck said in the announcement. “We want to help people meet healthcare needs at every stage and in every circumstance of life, and for many, Medicaid represents the most affordable coverage.”

CareFirst, which covers about 3.2 million people, once served Medicaid enrollees but has been out of the market for almost 20 years, according to a company spokesman. The insurer is also looking at entering the Medicare Advantage arena, he said.

The deals are subject to regulatory approvals from D.C. and Maryland. The deal with Health Partners doesn’t include the University of Maryland Health Advantage plan, which covers 5,600 people enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid.

CareFirst said it will develop a plan to integrate both companies’ staff and infrastructure over a multiyear transition.

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Insurer CareFirst strikes two deals, marking foray into Medicaid –