Northeastern Professors Talk Dangers of Aetna-CVS Mega Merger
A recent multi-billion dollar mega-merger between health insurance company Aetna and popular medical dispensary chain CVS Heath has certainly raised some eyebrows, of which include several healthcare experts at Northeastern University and the D’Amore-McKim School of Business.
Professor of Strategic Management and Healthcare Systems Gary Young believes the new partnership—which combines the ubiquity and readily available convenience of CVS with Aetna’s extensive network—will make healthcare more accessible, particularly for patients who require periodic checkups. There are several potential drawbacks to this arrangement, which could involve Aetna “restricting choices for patients,” funneling patients into CVS, and penalizing patients who seek out-of-network care.
Another cause for concern is the “level of care” that CVS can actually offer to patients, which Professor of Management, Healthcare Systems, and Health Policy Timothy Hoff explores in-depth within his recent book Next in Line: Lowered Care Expectations in the Age of Retail- and Value-Based Health.
“The services in retail health settings are built for funneling lots of low-level care transactions through the system, meaning less emphasis on the complex relational care most patients need. What can happen is that choice goes down, prices go up, and bottom lines get enhanced, but the patient experience does not. It also leads to what I call a cheapened form of care delivery.”
CVS has over 9,700 drugstores in 49 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, and is steadily attracting more customers because of easy to use services like the MinuteClinic. Wall Street experts believe the deal wasn’t made with customers in direct mind, rather, it was an attempt to stop Amazon, which had been rumored to enter the pharmaceutical industry. And there are additional concerns over whether this will actually help customers in the long-run.
Northeastern professor Patricia Illingworth believes the merger represents an enormous conflict of interest, particularly—as she points out—if “a physician’s purpose is to serve the patient, not sell to him or her.”
“The main mission of CVS is to sell medicine. It’s not to take care of patients. When someone is seeking medical care, they shouldn’t be preyed upon in that way.”
The move comes less than three years after CVS bought out Target’s pharmacy business, ridding of even more potential competition.