With CVS-Aetna Combination, Executives See Opportunity to Create ‘New Health Care Concept’

The planned combination of CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) and Aetna (NYSE: AET) in the second half of CVSHealth_Aetna_2002018, if all falls into place as expected with the $69 billion deal, will open up an array of new opportunities for the combined company and will change the way health care is delivered, including vision care, executives of the two companies said earlier this week. “We want to build an entirely new health care concept,” CVS Health president and chief executive officer Larry Merlo said Monday during a conference call with securities analysts, a day after the mega deal was officially announced on Sunday. CVS, which is known for its ongoing efforts to change the health care landscape, said the deal will allow for the combining of its “unmatched local presence and clinical capabilities with Aetna’s leading health care benefits and services. The deal also will enable “greater integration of care,” according to a joint announcement. CVS, which operates about 9,700 retail locations and 1,100 MinuteClinic walk-in clinics, is just beginning its move into the optical market. The company currently has 15 optical centers open (in Illinois, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey), and it also operates 32 audiology centers across seven states, a spokeswoman told VMail. CVS entered the optical business in late 2015 with five departments in stores near Baltimore and earlier this year it announced plans to triple that number this year, as VMail reported. Addressing the “expanded opportunities” to make health care services more accessible and convenient for consumers, the companies noted in their statement that, in the future, “CVS Pharmacy locations will include space for wellness, clinical and pharmacy services, vision, hearing, nutrition, beauty, and medical equipment, in addition to the products and services our customers currently enjoy. An entirely new health services offering available in many locations will function as a community-based health hub dedicated to connecting the pathways needed to improve health and answering patients' questions about their health conditions, as well as prescription drugs and health coverage.” One of the next moves for the combined company will be to develop “pilot stores” with either a full array of services, or other configurations, under one CVS Pharmacy roof, executives said on the conference call. Aetna chairman and chief executive officer Mark Bertolini said he envisions a CVS Pharmacy of the future that would look and work similarly to the Genius Bar at an Apple store or the patient-centered medical home model that supports interaction with the medical community. “Think of the Genius Bar at Apple, for example, and the ability to be able to walk into the store and get help. This is the kind of idea that we want to create in the stores and we want to get going on the projects and the pilots as soon as we can,” Bertolini said. Deborah Weinswig, an analyst at Fung Global Retail and Technology said she believes the CVS-Aetna merger likely “represents the first wave of pharmacies and insurance companies combining in order to better withstand the entry of Amazon into the pharmacy business, which is expected in the near term.” “The combined company should also be able to better understand patients’ health goals, guide patients through the health care system and help them achieve their best health,” she added in her report on the deal. “Management expects to deliver this personalized health care experience by providing consumers with greater access to Aetna’s extensive network of providers through CVS.” Aetna, a leading diversified health care benefits companies, offers a few options for vision care coverage, including through an employer via the Aetna Vision Preferred program or under an Aetna medical plan. Aetna medical coverage may include some vision benefits, according to the insurer’s website. Aetna does not offer vision insurance for individual purchase, but there is a vision discount program, which includes savings on eye exams, glasses, contact lenses and LASIK surgery, according to the website. In addition, Weinswig said, the combined company will “spur the development of new products and generate significant new growth opportunities as a uniquely integrated retailer, pharmacy benefits manager and health plan.” In their joint announcement, the companies said the deal “fills an unmet need in the current health care system and presents a unique opportunity to redefine access to high-quality care in lower cost, local settings whether in the community, at home, or through digital tools.” Merlo noted that the combination will unite the “expertise of two great companies to remake the consumer health care experience. With the analytics of Aetna and CVS Health’s human touch, we will create a health care platform built around individuals. We look forward to working with the talented people at Aetna to position the combined company as America's front door to quality health care, integrating more closely the work of doctors, pharmacists, other health care professionals and health benefits companies to create a platform that is easier to use and less expensive for consumers.” Aetna’s Bertolini called the deal the “next step in our journey.” He added, “Together with CVS Health, we will better understand our members' health goals, guide them through the health care system and help them achieve their best health. Aetna has a proud tradition of continually innovating to address unmet consumer needs and providing leading products and services to the marketplace.” Under the terms of the deal, CVS Health will acquire all outstanding shares of Aetna for a combination of cash and stock. Aetna shareholders will receive $145 per share in cash and 0.8378 CVS Health shares for each Aetna share, according to the announcement. The transaction values Aetna at approximately $207 per share. Including the assumption of Aetna's debt, the total value of the transaction is $77 billion.
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