One of the largest drugstore companies in the world, CVS, will merge with one of the largest health insurance providers in the world. world, Aetna. Assuming that the government regulators and the shareholders of both companies give their blessing, it would be the largest merger in the US. UU This year.
So, will it be, ultimately, good for consumers and for medical care?
Even for someone not insured by Aetna, it should be good news.
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The CVS-Aetna merger brings health insurance and health care closer than ever before in this country. Pharmacies are not just a CVS business: in 2006, it acquired a company called MinuteClinic, which operates clinics without an appointment. Now there are more than 1,000 MinuteClinics. This is how CVS and Aetna, by joining forces, were able to save themselves and millions of Americans, a lot of time and money, by allowing health care consumers to skip the high-cost doctor's visit when an appointment-free clinic owned by CVS can perform the same function.
Patients with chronic conditions benefit the most. Frequent trips to the doctor are very expensive at present in the US health care system. However, for routine check-ups, chronic patients may receive the same treatment in a clinic without an appointment as in a doctor's office. Less expensive visits could mean more visits, for example, to ensure that patients take their medications as directed, which reduces insurance costs for everyone who is covered by Aetna.
If this model of attention takes off, others could imitate it, which would cause more mergers and more cohesion in the industry in general. Add to this equation the giant trillion dollar giant that enters the pharmacy market. If CVS buys an insurance company and the model is profitable for them, why would not Amazon do the same?
Imagine a result of this paradigm shift like this: players in insurance and look after markets with enough market power to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies.
That, certainly, remains a remote scenario. But the astronomical prices of drugs in the United States are an important reason why our medical care is so expensive. In our fragmented health care market, there are no important suppliers powerful enough to negotiate these prices significantly. Greater integration of the insurance and care markets should be a step in the right direction.