CVS/Aetna merger raises questions about the future of health care

BY Briana Vannozzi, Senior Correspondent |

Your local CVS store could look a lot different in a few years if the proposed plan to buy Aetna, the nation’s third largest health insurer, goes through. The $69 billion deal is expected to push the retailer further into health services. But what about affordability and the ways it could change your health care?

“The first issue is what is this going to look like for me from the perspective of my wallet. Am I going to be saving money on my drug costs? And I think that’s TBD. We don’t know yet, it’s too early. But basically, they’re taking three levels out of the marketplace and at every level you tend to have some add ons of costs. So, will merging three levels into one save consumers and employers money?” asked Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute.

The other issue is making the pharmacy the new front door of health care. The New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute says the state has 31 of those minute clinics and polls show they’re grossly underused. Analysts say the future means a remodel. Less merchandise, more of a doctor’s office feel, and Aetna is likely to incentivize people to use the stores more by dropping copays for the clinics and prescription drugs.

“I think we’re seeing a lot of consolidation going on in health care and a lot of vertical integration and it’s really becoming more important to be able to provide all aspects of care and link it together with electronic health records and with some sort of case manager overseeing everything making sure the patient is making their appointments, filling their prescriptions and taking their medicine,” Jeff Jonas, a portfolio manager at Gabelli Funds, said

Jonas says Aetna is pegging savings at $20 per month, per member and the savings for those with chronic conditions even higher with more than $100 per member per month. The deal though is likely to take two to three years to complete.