November 7, 2018

CVS provides more hints of reimagined health care post Aetna merger

Flickr Creative Commons | Chez Julius Livre 1
Flickr Creative Commons | Chez Julius Livre 1
Aetna headquarters in Hartford.

CVS Health executives on Tuesday reaffirmed their commitment to lowering healthcare costs after the pharmacy giant's $69 billion acquisition of Aetna clears in the next two weeks.

The reassurances came during CVS Health's third-quarter conference call on Tuesday, which offered investors a glimpse of what a combined company with Aetna would look like.

The CVS-Aetna deal has received approval from 23 of 28 state regulatory bodies, and is slated to be completed before Thanksgiving, said CVS Health CEO and President Larry J. Merlo. CVS and Aetna previously received approval from both the Connecticut Insurance Department and the U.S. Justice Department, contingent on Aetna divesting its standalone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan business.

Merlo said the Rhode Island-based company will exceed its original goal of cutting $750 million in overhead costs by integrating its corporate expenses and its existing assets under the combined company.

He also said CVS will reduce medical costs by increasing adherence to prescription regimens, expanding its membership and upping its use of storefronts to reduce emergency room visits or move expensive therapy services to lower-cost sites.

"The longer-term medical cost savings will come from new programs that are only made possible through the combination and close integration of our two companies," he said. "And we are targeting substantial savings through specific portfolio of products and services."

Merlo said the new, one-stop shop model will improve health management for five chronic conditions: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, asthma and behavioral health.

This will be made possible, he said, by integrating pharmacy and medical claims, its clinical-data set, and expanding its MinuteClinic to support early identification and ongoing management of chronic diseases. CVS will also launch new programs and services to reduce "avoidable hospital readmissions," he said.

CVS will unveil the new offerings at its first "concept stores" early in 2019.

"And through these stores, we will pilot the programs just mentioned and explore new services to better address the cost-quality-access challenges of consumers and identify the most effective and scalable solutions, so they can be rolled out more broadly across our footprint," he said.

Following the deal's closure, CVS has pledged to keep Aetna headquartered in Hartford for at least 10 years.

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