Pharmacy giant CVS Health has agreed to buy Aetna in a $69 billion blockbuster acquisition that could rein in health-care costs and transform its 9,700 pharmacy storefronts into community medical hubs for primary care and basic procedures, the companies announced Sunday afternoon.
The pharmacy chain agreed to buy Aetna for about $207 per share, broken down into $145 in cash and the rest in stock. The deal — the biggest health-care merger announced in more than a year — is expected to close in the second half of 2018, subject to approval by shareholders and regulators.
If approved, the megamerger would create a giant consumer health-care company with a familiar presence in thousands of communities. Aetna chief executive Mark T. Bertolini described the vision in an interview as “creating a new front door for health care in America.”
“We want to get closer to the community, because all health care is local,” Bertolini said. “What was going to draw people into an Aetna store? Probably not a lot. We looked for the right kind of partnership.”
CVS would provide a broad range of health services to Aetna’s 22 million medical members at its nationwide network of pharmacies and walk-in clinics, and further decrease the drugstore titan’s reliance on the retail sales that have faced increasing competition.
“You can imagine a world where health care is better designed around the people who use it, which is one of the challenges we have today,” CVS chief executive Larry J. Merlo said in an interview. As part of the deal, Bertolini would join the CVS board and Aetna would be run as a stand-alone business unit.
The deal is likely to set off even more mergers in the health-care industry, which has been undergoing consolidation and faces potential new competition from Amazon.com. It could position Aetna to be more competitive with UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest insurer, which has already expanded beyond its core business into pharmacy-care services, clinics and surgery-care centers and health-care data.