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CVS plans to buy Aetna: Will consumers pay more?

Written by Diane Archer

CVS Health, a chain of retail pharmacies, plans to buy Aetna for $69 billion in an effort to compete against Amazon in the health care space. CVS further plans to build a network of medical clinics providing a range of primary care health care services inside its pharmacies.

According to NPR, with the purchase of Aetna, CVS wants to transform itself from a pharmacy chain to a health care company. Today, CVS provides drug benefits to 90 million people in the US, and it has MinuteClinics in 1,100 CVS and Target stores. As it expands further into providing health care, CVS pharmacists and nurse practitioners will assist people with diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma at these clinics and monitor them remotely in some instances.

CVS hopes that people will be attracted to these health hubs because of their convenience. Without a doubt, it looks forward to greater profits as a result of the merger. As a general rule, these large mergers of health care companies give them more market power, reduce competition and drive up health care costs, with little if any public benefit.

As CVS builds its market share, experts believe it will have more power to increase prices with little fear of losing business. Aetna can create incentives for its members to use CVS pharmacies and clinics. Patients who choose not to use the CVS clinics could be left paying more for medical care at the doctor’s office.

CVS’ ownership of Caremark, a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), is likely already driving up your drug costs. Caremark gets rebates from pharmaceutical companies to put their drugs on insurers’ formularies. They are not required to disclose the amount of these rebates. They are pocketing a lot of this money rather than passing along the lower prices to patients needing prescriptions. And, in some cases, PBMs are responsible for copays on your drugs that are higher than the drugs’ price if you bought them without your insurance. It’s no wonder that, to save money, millions of people are buying drugs online from certified international pharmacies through Pharmacy Checker, or buying their drugs while they are abroad.

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