The big pharmacy company CVS has been approved by the Justice Department to merge with healthcare provider Aetna via a $69 billion dollar deal to transform how people benefit from healthcare plans. CVS is one of the leading pharmacy providers in the country with more than 9,800 retail locations, 1,100 walk-in medical clinics, and provides prescription plans to roughly 94 million customers. This merger with Aetna’s 22 million insured customers and 2.2 million prescription drug plan members could entice more customers into CVS stores for more care options and routine checkups.
CVS and Aetna hope to usher in a new era of cheaper costs and easier accessible healthcare. Facing competition from online retailers, both companies hope to get more people into their walk-in clinics and drugstores and thus relying less on expensive hospital visits. These clinics will be able to treat people with a wide variety of ailments from serious conditions like diabetes to common illnesses including colds.
Not everyone is in support of the merger causing outcries from many consumer based parties. Advocacy groups such as the consumers union fear that people enrolled in Aetna health plans could be forced to seek care at CVS retail clinics, and that those who were not insured by Aetna could pay higher prices for drugs compared to those who were. The American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Antitrust Institute (AAI) also opposed the deal with fears that the merger could cause prices to skyrocket and could lessen the competition in the healthcare market. The deal is expected to close within the early part of the fourth quarter of 2018. Upon completion, Aetna will operate as a standalone business within the merged company.