Don’t Believe The Hype: What The CVS Aetna Merger Really Means
It’s a debate that continues to rage on, with both sides typically breaking down along political party lines. On the one hand, there are people who believe that healthcare is a birthright and should be available for all. It should be a single payer, nationally sponsored program. On the other hand are those who believe in a free market, the tenants of capitalism, and service to the special interests who fuel their campaigns and fill their bank accounts.
With Congress’s continuing attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and big pharmaceutical CEOs giddy over skyrocketing drug costs, the ability to get decent, quality medical attention is getting harder than ever…and things are about to get a whole lot worse. In a move that surprised many outside the industry, major chain CVS has agreed to merge with Aetna, the nation’s third-largest insurance company, in a deal that’s reportedly worth between $69 to $77 billion.
Many experts agree – the size of this deal will result in a “transformative” effect on the way healthcare is delivered in this country. CVS has over 9,700 retail outlets and over 1,100 walk-in clinics around the US. The players involved in this deal insist that such a deal will only benefit consumers. However, not everyone is on board with this monopoly in the making.
CVS Aetna Merger
David Balto, an anti-trust attorney writing for The Hill, argues, “If this pharmacy and pharmacy benefit managers (“PBM”) giant and insurance company are allowed to join forces, the results will be higher prices and less choice for payers and consumers.” Alpesh Patel, the founder of Benzer Pharmacy, has a similar reaction: “Perception gets formed in the patient’s mind that they have to use CVS because that’s where their insurance is from, creating less competition between PBMs and insurance companies.”
CVS Caremark Merger
Balto points to a previous deal that CVS struck with PBM “giant” Caremark. At the time, 2007, they formed an exclusive network that limited choice of pharmacists and increased the cost of drugs. The claims made by CVS online applied to CVS only. It also used its mail order operations to over-dispense medications, again driving up the price. ”
UnitedHealthcare CatamaranRx Merger
In 2015, UnitedHealthcare, the largest U.S. insurer, acquired CatamaranRx, then the fourth-largest PBM, into its OptumRx PBM,” Balto points out. And the result? “No evidence of greater integration, greater patient focus to improve health care, improved care, lower premiums and overall costs, increased savings or any resulting benefits passed on to consumers,” he argues.
How will the merger affect consumers and the pharmacy owners?
By limiting competition, driving smaller companies out of the market, and placing a proprietary stamp on the care provided, this healthcare behemoth is poised to take over. Without anyone to stop them, they become as much of a threat to healthcare as Congress. Patel states that “there are more than 26,000 independent pharmacies in the country who are truly winning business over CVS and Walgreen’s just because of the care they provide to their customers and services they offer over big chain pharmacies .” Clearly, such a deal is meant to undermine such a specialized focus.
For Benzer Pharmacy, the customer is always number one. In this case, CVS and Aetna would care less about your health and more about their bottom lines. What is your take on the merger?
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