The mergers also show how far organizations are crossing the traditional line between insurance companies responsible for paying for care and providers responsible for delivering it.
There have always been organizations that perform both functions, but the lines have are increasingly blurred. UnitedHealth, for example, has been aggressively buying physician practices and surgery centers, while Humana announced plans to become the nation’s largest provider of hospice care.
“The nature of the last six to 12 months is much more vertical and the size of the deals are significantly larger,” said Gurpreet Singh, a partner specializing in health care services at the consulting and advisory firm PwC.
Much of the enthusiasm over CVS’s acquisition of Aetna has focused on the insurer’s addition of a retail component and the potential use of CVS’s 10,000 pharmacies and 1,100 retail clinics to deliver care, particularly to Aetna customers.
Imagine a single hub where someone can go to get care for everything from a sore throat to their diabetes. CVS stores could become places to get blood tests for monitoring chronic conditions, not just toothpaste or prescription refills. “You could see the store as a base of operations for a lot of these delivery channels,” said George Hill, a senior analyst at RBC Capital Markets.
Mr. Merlo will be the chief executive of the combined companies, and Mark T. Bertolini, Aetna’s chief executive, will step down and join the CVS board. CVS has committed to keeping Aetna at its headquarters in Hartford for the next decade.
“In our new health care model, we provide people access to more affordable care when, where and how they need it,” Mr. Merlo said. “Care will be coordinated among the health care providers, caregivers and their health care teams, leveraging the connectivity CVS will provide.”