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How the CVS-Aetna merger could improve—or undermine— healthcare

D’Amore-McKim School of Business professors Timothy Hoff, Patricia Illingworth and Gary Young weigh in on the recent CVS-Aetna merger, and what it means for the future of healthcare, on a business, ethical, and legal level for News@Northeastern.

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December 13, 2017

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Aetna and CVS Health recently merged in a $69 billion deal causing many to question what the new duo’s role will be in the reshaping and the future of healthcare. D’Amore-McKim School of Business professors Timothy Hoff, Patricia Illingworth and Gary Young commented on the benefits and setbacks of this change in a recent News@Northeastern article.

Young believes one benefit of the merger could be better access to healthcare. With a CVS on virtually every corner and Aetna’s network of physicians, patients may be more likely to find a place for care with ease and continue to go back for checkups. A drawback of this could include Aetna restricting healthcare choices for patients.

“There’s going to be an effort to channel people into using CVS services as opposed to their competitors,” Young said. He also added that patients seeking care out-of-network could be penalized.

On the other hand, Hoff wonders what the level of care would be like at CVS.

“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,” said Hoff. “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.”

Hoff’s recently published book Next in Line: Lowered Care Expectations in the Age of Retail- and Value-Based Health, explores this issue and others related to patient care.

Patricia Illingworth highlights the conflict of interest between Aetna and CVS. If a physician’s purpose is to serve the patient, not sell to him or her, this new merger could get tricky.

“The main mission of CVS is to sell medicine. It’s not to take care of patients,” Illingworth said. “When someone is seeking medical care, they shouldn’t be preyed upon in that way.”

Read more on News@Northeastern.