What the CVS-Aetna Deal Means for Consumers

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 12/5/2017, 7:42 a.m.
Who needs to go to the doctor when you can go to your local CVS drug store instead? That appears ...
CVS Health is said to be in talks to acquire Aetna for $66 billion in a blockbuster merger that could reshape the health insurance industry. And one of the factors rumored to be driving the deal is Amazon.

Paul R. La Monica

(CNN Money) -- Who needs to go to the doctor when you can go to your local CVS drug store instead? That appears to be the logic behind CVS's decision to buy health insurer Aetna for $69 billion.

CVS has more than 9,700 pharmacies and 1,100 Minute Clinics, walk-in locations that offer vaccinations, lab tests and diagnosis and treatment of illnesses like strep throat and ear infections from nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Combining the operations of CVS, which also owns pharmacy benefits manager and mail order pharmacy Caremark, with a major insurer like Aetna could make it easier for people to monitor diseases without having to see a doctor.

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said during a conference call with analysts Monday that the combined resources of CVS and Aetna could make the pharmacies and walk-in clinics kind of like the medical version of the Genius Bar at Apple Stores, with experts dispensing quick, convenient and reliable health care knowledge.

"The combined company will also be able to better understand patients' health goals, guide them through the health care system, and help them achieve their best health. There will be expanded opportunities to bring health care services to consumers every day," the companies added in a release.

The company explained this with an example of how diabetics could get quicker, easier treatment.

CVS and Aetna said that patients will be able to go to a local CVS or minute clinic in between doctor visits for glucose level monitoring, counseling on how and when to use medications and advice on weight loss programs and better dietary habits.

"These types of interventions are things that the traditional health care system could be doing, but the traditional health care system lacks the key elements of convenience and coordination that help to engage consumers in their health," CVS CEO Larry Merlo said in the release.

Merlo added during the conference call that rising health care costs are a major problem for consumers and that the combination of CVS and Aetna will lead to lower expenses and better service for consumers and health care providers.

It's unclear just how quickly customers might start seeing savings -- and how much cheaper drugs might actually be, for that matter.

It's also not certain if this will mainly be good for the 90 million customers of CVS and Caremark as well as the 23 million people who have Aetna insurance or if people with other insurance and pharmacy plans can also benefit.

CVS also recently took over the pharmacy operations at Target.

CVS has existing partnerships with UnitedHealth's OptumRx and is planning to create a new pharmacy benefits management company with insurer Anthem called IngenioRx.

Merlo and Aetna's Bertolini, who will join the combined company's board if a deal goes through, both stressed that CVS-Aetna will also be better able to serve the aging population in the U.S., which is increasingly relying on the government's Medicare and Medicaid programs for health care.

Bertolini said during the conference call that many Medicare/Medicaid patients are "confused" and "wandering through the system" seeing numerous doctors and taking many different medications.