CVS-Aetna Merger: Will it Really Benefit Doctors and Patients, or Just Corporate Balance Sheets?
Since CVS Health announced it would buy health insurance giant Aetna for about $69 billion, analysts have been debating about how the deal will affect the bottom lines of both companies.
But since the merger has the potential to bring radical change to our healthcare system, more people should be asking: Will this deal be good for doctors and patients?
Will a merger of this kind mean more consumer choice when shopping for healthcare, or less?
Will a deal between a major insurer and one of the country’s largest pharmacy chains give physicians — whether in independent practice or a member of a managed-care system — more authority to chart the courses of treatment they want, or less?
CVS and Aetna combined would make one of the largest players in our country’s healthcare delivery, so these are the questions we should be asking.
More convenience, or a monopoly?
When giants merge there is always the danger of a monopoly. Regulators will look long and hard at the Aetna-CVS merger, but because the two operate in different industries, might very well give the deal the green light.
But will it feel like a monopoly to patients? Will consumers feel that the end result of the merger is that they have fewer choices when it comes to how and where they get healthcare?
If we want to keep the wellbeing of patients at the center of the equation, the question of choice is at least as important as whether or not the combined entity meets the legal requirement for being a monopoly.
A CVS-Aetna merger will offer some benefits to patients, in terms of convenience. CVS, which already operates some walk-in clinics in its pharmacies, could very well expand these types of offerings once they are merged with Aetna. Aetna members could be offered a sort of one-stop-shop for certain kinds of healthcare, which would make life easier for many consumers.
But what would happen if this new entity decided to raise its prices? Would consumers still be able to freely shop for healthcare elsewhere, or could Aetna members get locked into certain arrangements with CVS?
And more importantly, what happens to physicians and patients who are not part of this combined, giant provider? Does life get better for these individuals, or worse?
We Need More Choice, Not Less
The CVS-Aetna merger might not constitute a monopoly, and it might not severely limit choice for physicians or for patients. But the deal is a step in the wrong direction, as it does nothing to extend healthcare to the millions of Americans who are not being well-served by the healthcare system we have today.
Instead of talking about what will benefit major corporations, we should focus on what solutions can bring doctors and patients together without restrictions, without borders and without concern for profit margins.
New technologies can accomplish this. Telemedicine systems that bring doctors and patients together regardless of location, practice management systems that connect independent providers to the larger healthcare system — these are the kinds of technologies that will extend quality healthcare to the most people possible.
Whether or not the CVS-Aetna merger is deemed monopolistic or not, we at VirtuMed 360 fear that the deal will feel like just that to physicians and to patients.
That’s why we focus on developing technologies that do what corporate deals cannot do: making the highest quality care available to the largest number of people.
We welcome your thoughts on this topic.