CVS Health-Aetna deal to close within days

Following on the heels of its announcement last week that its acquisition of Aetna was nearly complete, today CVS Health and Aetna received the final regulatory approval required for CVS Health to complete the acquisition, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The closing of the acquisition is expected to occur on or about Nov. 28, 2018, subject to the satisfaction of all other closing conditions, the filing said.

In October, CVS Health received the Department of Justice’s conditional approval for the acquisition, with the requirement that Aetna divest its standalone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, a move that had been announced with WellCare Health Plans set to take over the plans, which have roughly 2.2 million members.

CVS Health also announced in October that three additional Aetna directors — Edward Ludwig, Fernando Aguirre and Roger Farah — with deep insurance company oversight experience will join the CVS Health board, following the completion of its acquisition of Aetna. The appointment of these three directors, together with the previously announced addition of Mark Bertolini, Aetna’s current chairman and CEO, will bring the total number of CVS Health board members to 16.

Earlier this month, CVS Health president and CEO Larry Merlo told investors on a call accompanying the company’s third-quarter operating results that his focus is on the impending integration with the health insurer, with a long-term focus on substantial medical cost reductions, increased revenues through membership growth, increased customer satisfaction and retention, customer value expansion through CVS Health assets, and growth enabled by an open platform model.

Merlo said that CVS Health and Aetna’s integration and innovation teams’ immediate priorities in preparing for the close fall into two broad categories — successfully delivering on a stated goal of achieving $750 million in year-two synergies and executing on the foundational pieces of its new healthcare model to achieve longer-term growth.

“Our year-two synergy plan is largely complete, and we’re ready to begin implementation upon closing,” he said. “At the same time, we’ve developed a foundational plan that will benefit post-close from a deeper dive into Aetna’s strategies and operations, leading to longer-term value creation.”

He said that central to realizing these synergies will be reducing the company’s corporate expenses, integrating operations and focusing on reducing medical costs.

“We plan to accomplish [the medical cost reduction] through actions that increase adherence to prescription regimens and close gaps in care, along with programs that optimize the site of care either to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits or move expensive therapies, such as infusion to lower-cost sites of care.”

Merlo said the longer-term medical cost savings will come from new programs that are possible through the combination and close integration of the two companies.

Substantial savings also are expected to be achieved through a specific portfolio of such products and services as the better management of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, asthma and behavioral health, he said.