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The US Department of Justice yesterday said that health care retailer CVS can acquire Aetna, the nation’s third largest insurance company, for $69 billion, as long as they sell off Aetna’s Medicare Part D prescription drug business.

The Washington Post writes that the deal, which is likely to be closed by the end of the year, “could potentially transform the health-care industry and change how millions of Americans receive basic medical services … The tie-up will allow CVS — whose retail pharmacy business serves 5 million customers a day — to turn more of its brick-and-mortar locations into front-line clinics for basic medical services and patient monitoring. By deepening its knowledge of and relationships with patients, CVS has said the combination could help Americans stick with medication regimens and stay out of the hospital.”

The core of the deal is access to “immense amounts of data generated not only by CVS’s 9,800 retail outlets and 1,100 MinuteClinics but also from Aetna’s 22 million medical members,” as the combined company looks to “become a part of the nation’s social fabric, using the local retail pharmacy as both a window into people’s lives beyond the doctor’s office and assuming the role of a health-care assistant.”

The Post goes on: “The Aetna acquisition is also expected to give CVS more leverage in its negotiations with drugmakers over drug prices, analysts say. A substantial share of CVS’s revenue comes from its role as a ‘pharmacy benefit manager’ for insurance companies and employers. As health-care costs have risen, PBMs have emerged as important power players in the pharmaceutical supply chain.”
KC's View:
It will be interesting so see how this deal helps to reshape the health care business at some level, which is important at a time when access top affordable health care continues to be a major issue among the electorate. (Polling shows that it is a big voter concern in the mid-terms.)

It won’t just be CVS that stands to gain. Suddenly, it seems to me, Target - which turned its pharmacy/HBC business over the CVS a few years ago - could end up being an important part of the health care equation, which would make it relevant in all new ways.

While I have my issues with the CVS retail experience, I admire what it is trying to do in terms of vision - moving from just being a drug store chain to being an important component in a much broader and more consequential construct. I do think they cannot take their eyes off the core retail business … but as long as they do that, this deal has the potential for being a game changer.