'An Optum wannabe': Experts say UnitedHealth, more than Amazon, is fueling CVS-Aetna deal

While many analysts predicted CVS Health is in talks to buy Aetna to stay ahead of Amazon, industry experts are now attributing the proposed merger to another competitor — UnitedHealth Group, according to the Los Angeles Times.

UnitedHealth, with more than 45 million members, is well known as the nation's largest health insurer, but in recent years the insurance giant has extended into the prescription drug and medical services markets.

Optum, UnitedHealth's health information technology and services arm, fills more than 100 million prescriptions per month. Additionally, UnitedHealth manages medical practices for 22,000 physicians in the nation and owns more than 400 surgery centers and urgent care clinics, according to the report.

"People have gotten carried away with Amazon," Ana Gupte, PhD, a healthcare analyst at Leerink Partners, told the LA Times. "CVS and Aetna is an Optum wannabe. UnitedHealth is the winning business model, and Optum is showing the way."

UnitedHeath's expansion into the prescription drug market with OptumRx has helped put the company on pace to reach $200 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2017.

The proposed merger between CVS Health and Aetna, which was reported by the Wall Street Journal last week, could be worth more than $66 billion. 

More articles on payer issues:
CMS proposes ACA benefit changes for 2019: 7 things to know 
What's looming behind the proposed CVS Health-Aetna deal 
Health Partners Plans names Geralynn Boone VP of Medicare clinical operations: 5 takeaways

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