Posted in Perspective

How will the CVS-Aetna merger impact U.S. healthcare?

Chris Nerney
Chris Nerney, Contributing Writer |
How will the CVS-Aetna merger impact U.S. healthcare?

Retail pharmacy giant CVS’s proposed $69 billion purchase of Aetna, the third-largest insurer in the U.S., could have a dramatic impact on the nation’s healthcare system.
What that impact will be, however, is a matter of debate. The CVS post-merger plan to expand consumer services in its retail pharmacies and clinics is “bad news for the nation’s hospitals,” which could lose patients to retail-based care services, writes Forbes contributor Bruce Japsen.
The Economist suggests that the vertical integration resulting from a CVS-Aetna merger might “put a brake on American’s unsustainably soaring healthcare costs,” while Congressional Democrats argue the reverse: The merger may lead to higher healthcare costs and fewer choices for consumers.
But surveys indicate that consumers are eager for changes in the healthcare system that may sync with CVS’s strategy of creating a “one-stop shopping” healthcare experience for patients.
Conducted by DRG Digital’s Manhattan Research, the surveys show a desire among consumers for more convenience and lower healthcare costs. According to the company’s 2017 Cybercitizen Health survey:

  • 42% of U.S. adults say being able to take care of most of their healthcare needs in one place is "very important" to having a good experience
  • 58% of consumers rate affordability of services “as very important to the healthcare customer experience”
  • 24% of U.S. adults saying they have used virtual consultations, and more than half of those who haven't said they would be interested in doing so

In the 2016 version of the Cybercitizen Health survey, consumers cited prescription renewals as the top reason they use virtual consults, which “fits perfectly into CVS' business model,” according to the research firm.
Another key element of CVS’s strategy is to leverage digital technologies “for keeping tabs on patients post-discharge and helping them stay adherent with medical regimens,” DRG Digital writes.
"The table is set for CVS/Aetna, UnitedHealth/DaVita, and other consolidating players to serve up technology that truly helps healthcare consumers at scale," Jeff Greene, vice president of digital strategy and insights for DRG Digital, said in a statement. "This trend toward 'self-serve' healthcare has been building in recent years. We will be watching to see how these vertically integrated behemoths are able to execute on the digital opportunities in front of them."