Chances are your next trip to get treated for a non-life-threatening condition might take you to the drug store.
CVS Health's $69 billion deal to acquire insurer Aetna could reshape basic health care as the combined company seeks to bolster its prescription drug business while nudging customers away from costly emergency room visits and toward affordable clinical care at the drug store.
If the deal unfolds as envisioned, the CVS store of the future won't look much like the one you remember, when candy bars, trinkets, toothpaste and makeup dominated the aisles.
Instead, CVS, having already added healthier foods and banned cigarette sales in recent years, is shooting to become a one-stop shop for basic medical services.
With a massive physical footprint of more than 9,700 locations at a time when real-estate costs are an anchor for many traditional retailers, CVS is hoping to remake itself as a health care provider first and retailer second.
"Think of a Genius Bar at Apple, for example — this ability to walk into the store and get help. This is the kind of idea we want to create in the stores," Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said.
Aetna insurance customers can still fill prescriptions elsewhere. At least for now.
The deal is not expected to have an immediate impact on where Aetna insurance members can fill prescriptions.
But in the long run, CVS could alter insurance terms to get more patients to fill prescriptions through its stores or the mail.
"What Aetna customers are likely to see early on are more plans designed to drive them to CVS for not just their prescription drugs, whether it’s mail-order or in the store, but also for their medical care," said Marianne Udow-Phillips, executive director of the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation (CHRT) at the U-M.