Hearing: CVS Promises Lower Healthcare Costs, Better Care After Aetna Merger

Matt Dwyer
October 04, 2018 - 2:01 pm

Aetna President Karen Lynch at a Connecticut Insurance Department hearing on a planned Aetna CVS merger. Photo by WTIC's Matt Dwyer.

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(WTIC-AM) -- At a Connecticut Insurance Department meeting today, CVS today told state regulators that its purchase of Hartford-based Aetna could help to reduce the cost of health care, and improve the quality of care. 

CVS executives say the combined company could better analyze medical data and allow pharmacists to better coordinate care. 

The company might save money by keeping patients on maintenance drugs for chronic conditions, thus avoiding expensive emergency room visits, or by inducing patients to go the CVS' inexpensive Minute Clinics.

Aetna Vice President Paul Wingle says the health insurer already used data to address rising costs for blood infusion, by offering to provide the service to patients less expensively at home.

"Just with a handful of patients, we achieved very significant savings, and the patients were much happier," Wingle said.

But Connecticut Pharmacists Association CEO Nathan Tinker opposes the merger.

"Bringing the insurance company and its pharmacy benefits manager together, in-house is tantamount to letting the fox into the hen house," Tinker said. "There will be little incentive to control costs, or to pass any perceived savings on to patients."

Tinker says the merger could be devastating to independent pharmacies.

Georgia State University Insurance Professor William Custer was hired by Connecticut regulators to review the deal.  

"The greater degree of efficiencies created by this vertical integration, the more consumers benefit from lower cost and better health, the less competitive the downstream market necessarily becomes because in order to compete in that market, other firms will have to integrate in the same type of way."

Custer says if this deal prompts more mergers, there could be less competition and prices for patients might remain high in the long run. 

Aetna is a major employer in Connecticut, with more than 5,000 workers in the state.

The merger is valued at almost $70-billion.