January 15, 2019

CVS Health commits $100M to community health, wellness programs

Photo | Flickr via Mike Mozart
Photo | Flickr via Mike Mozart

CVS Health, which recently acquired Hartford health insurer Aetna for $69 billion, has committed $100 million toward community health and wellness programs.

CVS CEO Larry J. Merlo unveiled the Building Healthier Communities initiative Monday afternoon during a speech at the National Press Club Headliners Luncheon in Washington, D.C.

Merlo said the newly combined company will fund the program over five years in addition to contributions from the CVS Health and Aetna foundations to provide more affordable and accessible healthcare services.

"We believe the path to better health and a better world can be reached by creating a whole new healthcare model that's more, local, affordable, and easier to use," Merlo said in his speech about the challenges facing today's health care system.

Under the new program, CVS said it plans to invest $20 million annually across three funding categories to improve local access to affordable care, impact public health challenges and forge partnerships with local communities.

The Rhode Island-based company is expanding its Project Health campaign to serve more underserved and underinsured communities this year through free health and wellness screenings. The health assessments include blood pressure, body mass index, glucose and cholesterol screenings, which could detect early risks of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

Project Health has provided over $127 million in free healthcare services to almost 1.7 million people since 2006, CVS said.

The company is also investing in partnerships with organizations across the U.S. including the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and American Diabetes Association to address chronic diseases, which effect about 60 percent of Americans.

A collaboration between the Aetna Foundation and U.S. News & World Report will also support the Healthiest Communities report, which evaluates the health of nearly 3,000 communities in 10 categories including education, population health, infrastructure and economy, CVS said.

Among other initiatives, CVS and Aetna workers have also pledged at least $10 million in value of volunteer hours each year through several local partner organizations to address unmet health and social needs.

CVS and Aetna are currently integrating certain business segments, which Merlo has said will save the combined company $750 million in overhead costs.

But approval to begin a full integration will have to wait at least a few more weeks.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon is still reviewing a deal struck by the companies and the U.S. Department of Justice, which grants approval for the combination contingent on Aetna selling off its Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.

The Justice Department last week warned Leon their response to public comments on the antitrust deal could be delayed due to a lack of funding amid the ongoing partial government shutdown, which entered day 25 on Tuesday.

Leon on Friday rejected the department's warning regarding the potential delay, ordering them to respond to public concerns on the deal by Feb. 15.

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