The CVS and Aetna Deal

While it hasn’t gone through yet, some say the deal to merge CVS Caremark and Aetna will be bad for health care. “It’s going to face many hurdles,” said Adam Fein, president of Pembroke Consulting. Some House Democrats are calling for a hearing to examine the merger, which still faces the Federal Trade Commission. Some antitrust experts have stated that the deal could result in higher drug prices and less consumer choice. Aetna could simply drive their prescription business to CVS pharmacies, and charge more to patients who fill their drugs elsewhere.

The $69 billion merger could have major implications for patients. The deal would combine medical benefits and pharmacy benefits, and hopefully allow better treatment of those patients – a result yet to be seen after the 2015 merger of United Health Care and OptumRx, which resulted in a deal with the Walgreens 8,000 plus pharmacies to fill 90-day supply prescriptions at home delivery copay amounts, while independent and other community pharmacies saw copay clawbacks!

Larry Merlo, the CEO of CVS Health said, “While the traditional health care system could be overseeing people’s care, it isn’t,” and described the potential merger as, “an opportunity to meet a huge unmet need.” But some are asking if they wanted to change the health care landscape, why haven’t they done so already? Others say that the rumored interest of Amazon to enter the pharmaceutical supply industry is behind the potential merger.

According to the New York Times, “Some worry that the nation’s health care system will come to resemble a series of kingdoms, where consumers are locked into separate ecosystems of pharmacies, doctors and health care clinics depending on their insurance provider.” B. Douglas Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association said, “You may be bounced from kingdom to kingdom.” PAAS wonders if you could even be locked out of a (contract) kingdom? Aetna has over 22 million members that they can direct to CVS!

CVS Health and Aetna say that fewer people will fall through the cracks, getting high-quality and low-cost medical care at their corner drug store. Is CVS planning on ramping up their over 1,000 Minute Clinics for walkin medical care?

If the deal goes through, Aetna’s CEO is said to receive about $500 million in exit pay and stock options, so it’s a good deal for at least one person. Time will tell whether or not the deal is good for patients, and how it will affect independent pharmacies.