West Corp., an Omaha-based company that sells communications systems, said last week it has agreed to pay $265 million, cash, for Health Advocate, a Plymouth Meeting-based company that advises corporate employees on medical insurance and claims. Health Advocate, whose sales totalled $86 million last year, was founded 11 years ago by Michael J. Cardillo and other ex-managers from the former US Healthcare (now Aetna). The deal is to close by late July. I first read about it in a note from Tom Paine's Philly Tech News.

"We are excited to join West Corp." said Cardillo in this statement, adding that he expected his company to grow as West improves its technology and operations and offers Health Advocate services to more of its own business clients. Health Advocates employs more than 400 in Pymouth Meeting and a smaller Exton ofice, and more than 200 in Florida and California. "We're hiring people for virtually all key positions -- nurses in particular, people with benefits and general administrative capabilities, and I.T.," said Martin Rosen, executive vice president of Health Advocate. He added that he and Carrillo and other managers expect "to remain in place: they want the founders. We want to build on what we started from scratch. We're having fun and we want to keep building."

"We look forward to adding the talented group of leaders at Health Advocate to our team," said Tom Barker, chairman and CEO of West Corp., in the statement. He said Health Advocate will speed growth at West. Cardillo and West spokesman David M. Pleiss weren't available for comment on how the consolidation will affect employment. Shares of publicly-traded West have risen modestly since the acquisition was announced. West employs 35,000 at sites around the U.S.; the closest to Blue Bell is a call center in Wayne, N.J.