CVS Health wants to push into primary care, CEO Karen Lynch says

CVS Health President and CEO Karen Lynch said the company is looking to push into offering primary care options to patients, which would increase its ambitious vertical system offerings.

CVS Health, which acquired Aetna in 2018, has already moved toward becoming a major integrated healthcare player with its pharmacy, insurance management and retail components. Its push into primary care represents another step that would compete with hospitals and health systems. 

"We really believe that we need to kind of push into primary care so we can influence the overall cost of care," Ms. Lynch said in an analyst conference call

On the call, Ms. Lynch was asked whether this meant CVS Health would employ physicians, which she did not directly answer. 

She did discuss one of the motivations for the strategy: "Primary care is a small component of overall medical costs. I think we all recognize that, but it wields significant influence on the total medical costs picture."

CVS Health reported its earnings for the third quarter Nov. 3, beating expectations. The company's total revenue for the quarter increased by 10 percent from the previous year to $73.79 billion, surpassing its prediction of $70.49 billion. 

COVID-19 vaccinations and testing gave CVS a lift. The company administered 8.5 million tests and 11.6 million inoculations during this period. Increased prescriptions and front-store volume were also attributed to the growth, both of which had suffered during the pandemic. Front-store sales had a revenue growth of 13 percent from the previous year. It also expects to capitalize on the new wave of booster shots and newly authorized vaccines for children. The company hired a record number of people to support open enrollment and customer service, and almost 20,000 pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and nurses joined the CVS Health team to support flu season and COVID-19 vaccinations and testing.

However, its benefits company, Aetna, saw higher-than-expected costs associated with COVID-19 treatment and testing, in part because of the delta surge. Integration costs from the Aetna acquisition and a goodwill impairment charge also weighed down CVS Health. Consequently, the full-year guidance for earnings per share was lowered from between $6.35 and $6.45 to between $6.13 and $6.23. Since the acquisition in 2018, however, it has repaid a net of $18.7 billion of long-term debt.

"We outperformed expectations once again and continue to lead the way in changing how, when and where care is delivered for millions of Americans," Ms. Lynch said in a company press release

CVS Health plans to continue integrating its various healthcare offerings, such as encouraging Aetna members to visit CVS MinuteClinics. 


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