What to know—and share—about the CVS/Aetna deal

The $69 billion marriage of the two mega-corporations would alter the U.S. health care landscape. Here are some key facts for communicators to clear up the confusion.

Call it the clasp of the titans.

Pharmaceutical retail behemoth CVS Health has announced plans to buy insurance giant Aetna for $69 billion, a deal likely to reshape health care in the United States.

Communicators will be scrambling in the coming weeks to explain the effects of the proposed acquisition on consumers, health care employees and communities nationwide.

Here’s what to consider:

The immediate effect

According to The Washington Post:

CVS would provide a broad range of health services to Aetna’s 22 million medical members at its nationwide network of pharmacies and walk-in clinics, and further decrease the drugstore titan’s reliance on the retail sales that have faced increasing competition.

The Post notes that the deal could lower health care spending by encouraging CVS customers to use its walk-in clinics instead of visiting emergency rooms. On the other hand, consumer advocates fear the deal could limit choice by making it more difficult for new organizations to compete with bigger, more established insurers.

One area of concern for consumers and health care organizations is that the move could affect the price of prescription drugs. As the CNBC website reports:

CVS and Aetna argue that their deal will lower healthcare costs for employees of their large corporate customers, giving the company greater clout to negotiate down drug prices and better manage the use of those medicines.

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Room for optimism?

Still, some feel the deal in the short term isn’t likely to create major changes for consumers.

The Fox Business website reports:

Mike Newshel, an analyst who covers Aetna for Evercore ISI, agreed that over the near term, customers would likely experience little change. Over the long term, there may be gradual modifications as CVS tries to get more patients into its clinics.

“Ultimately, [the] idea would likely be for the CVS store to serve like a retail doorway to the healthcare system to control costs better—so over time [Aetna] members could be incentivized or nudged into accessing the healthcare system via the CVS infrastructure,” he told FOX Business.

The New York Times struck a similarly optimistic note (assuming the deal clears regulatory hurdles):

Research shows that coordinating pharmacy and health benefits has value because it removes perverse incentives that arise when drug and nondrug benefits are split across organizations. When pharmacy benefits are managed by a company that’s not on the hook for the cost of other care, like hospitalization, it doesn’t have as strong an incentive for increasing access to drugs that reduce other types of health care use.

Tweets abound

Twitter users erupted with commentary and humor on the deal:

Communicators—what are your hopes and concerns about how the proposed alliance would affect your organization?

Topics: PR


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