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CVS to Purchase Aetna With Idea of Remaking Consumer Healthcare Experience

Laura Joszt
CVS Health has proposed purchasing health insurer Aetna in a $69 billion deal that could disrupt the pharmacy benefit management business and "remake the consumer healthcare experience," according to CVS Health's president and CEO.
What Consumers Get
According to CVS’ press release, the merger will benefit consumers who have access to an integrated, community-based healthcare experience. Consumers will have greater access to Aetna’s network of providers through CVS’ 9700 pharmacy locations and 1100 MinuteClinic walk-in clinics. The broader use of data analytics can help patients avoid unnecessary hospital readmissions, and patients with chronic diseases can receive better treatment through face-to-face counseling at stores and remote monitoring.

“With the analytics of Aetna and CVS Health's human touch, we will create a health care platform built around individuals,” Merlo said. “We look forward to working with the talented people at Aetna to position the combined company as America's front door to quality healthcare, integrating more closely the work of doctors, pharmacists, other healthcare professionals and health benefits companies to create a platform that is easier to use and less expensive for consumers."

Numerof echoed the belief that the CVS–Aetna deal could benefit consumers with greater access to convenient care at a lower cost. Another benefit of the merger could be greater leverage to negotiate drug prices, driving down those costs.

She was concerned that Aetna consumers might be driven to use CVS for prescription drugs, which would undercut consumer choice.

“I could envision that members who have an Aetna plan … have a situation where CVS becomes the preferred place for filling scripts and the price differential is such that it really drives business away from a Walgreens or other specialty pharmacies and so forth,” she said. “I think that this will be one of the areas that the FTC is going to pay attention to.”

Future Direction
With the blocked mergers of Aetna–Humana and Anthem–Cigna, the government clearly weighed in on the limits of market consolidation and that continued consolidation between large insurers would not be beneficial, Numerof said. The jury is still out regarding whether or not mergers across businesses will work, but the merger between CVS and Aetna represents a move to a market-based model being driven from the private sector, rather than Washington, DC, which Numerof thinks is good.

“A market-based model is one that’s focused on real transparency in cost and quality, accountability for care services across the continuum, and one that enables consumers to have real choice,” she said. “I think there’s real possibility in this merger.”

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