CVS, Aetna merger: What it means for you

The nation’s largest retail pharmacy, CVS, announced on Wednesday that its $69 billion merger with health insurance giant Aetna was finalized.

CVS CEO Larry Merlo said that the merger will “transform” the consumer health experience by making care more localized, less expensive and more accessible.

Here’s what that means for covered individuals:

“It’s a vertical merger—meaning CVS and Aetna don’t compete on much, so it’s about synergies from integration rather than getting rid of a competitor—so [it] shouldn’t affect Aetna’s health-insured much, other than perhaps cheaper scripts or [over the counter] treatments bought at CVS,” Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review, told FOX Business.

Pharmacy benefit managers, like CVS, are charged with negotiating drug prices between makers and consumers. The acquisition of Aetna is expected to give CVS better leverage in pricing discussions, which would be particularly valuable at a time when companies are inundated with public pressure to reduce costs.

The retail pharmacy said that patients will also have better access to more services through CVS Health’s MinuteClinics, as care options are expanded. Health screenings will be offered and encouraged in communities identified as high-risk for certain conditions as care becomes more localized. Chronic care management options will also be expanded.

Merlo said consumers will benefit from earlier interventions, for things like heart attacks, as well.

In an effort to reduce overall health care costs, CVS and Aetna aim to eliminate unnecessary hospital visits and readmissions by expanding MinuteClinic hours and conducting timelier medication reviews.

Aetna will continue to operate as a standalone company within CVS.

CVS expects the deal to save a potential $750 million after two full years.

Aetna counts 23.1 million medical members, 14.5 million dental members and 15.2 million pharmacy benefit managers as customers, according to the company’s website. CVS is a pharmacy benefit manager with more than 9,700 location and $40 billion in specialty drug revenue.