CVS's Aetna Acquisition Will Be This Year's Biggest Deal

CVS agrees to buy insurance giant Aetna

AFP Getty Images A CVS Pharmacy drug store in Washington D.C

Merlo said he and Bertolini wanted to create a health-care platform that's "easier to use and less expensive for users".

Aetna shareholders will own about 22% of the combined company, while CVS shareholders will own the remainder. Both stressed that CVS-Aetna will also be better able to serve the aging population in the USA, which is increasingly relying on the government's Medicare and Medicaid programs for health care.

CVS Health's plan to buy Aetna Inc. for $69 billion would rank among the top 15 priciest merger and acquisition deals ever completed in the United States.

The proposed CVS Health-Aetna megamerger will reduce health-care costs for consumers immediately, the CEOs of both companies told CNBC on Monday.

"As a consumer, I want to have choices", he said. The company, which stopped selling tobacco products in 2014 to further burnish its image as a care provider, already runs about 1,100 clinics and has been steadily expanding the health care it offers.

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"We also believe that the Trump administration is more business-friendly" and that regulators may view a CVS-Aetna deal "as a way to continue to put pressure on manufacturers and drug prices", David Larsen, an analyst at Leerink Partners, said in a recent note.

In scale, CVS and Aetna offer a much bigger pharmacy benefits manager than UnitedHealth, which expanded its OptumRx business with the $13 billion purchase of Catamaran in 2015. Customers could see benefits down the road, however, if CVS turns some storefronts into clinics or primary care centers.

The companies are counting on the notion that people will prefer going to a clinic around the corner over making repeated trips to their doctors that might require appointments and waits. Like CVS, it also has one of the nation's largest pharmacy benefit management businesses. "If you only have responsibility for the cost of the diabetes medication, you might impose a higher co-pay", Garthwaite says.

The deal "would definitely be scrutinized, but ultimately we still see a path for it to get through", Newshel said in an email. The companies said the combination will save $750 million in costs and bring consumers better, more efficient health care. The consideration comprises $145 per share in cash and 0.8378 CVS shares for each Aetna share.

So how close to reality is this vision, one where a trip to the drug store makes visits to the doctor's office or hospital less necessary? "Many are pushing for more health care services to happen in pharmacies, and this is one mechanism to make that happen".

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The merger has left many wondering, who needs to go to the doctor when you can go to CVS instead? The deal, she said, "has a vision of repurposing their real estate within stores toward creating a low-priced clinic model".

Gupte predicted that the merger could prompt CVS rivals to consider similar deals of their own.

Some CVS shoppers also are skeptical about getting their health checked in a retail store. "That's an awfully big step", he says.

Health insurers meanwhile have sought to cut costs amid steep prescription drug price rises and requirements to care for even the sickest patients under the Affordable Care Act.

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