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CVS-Aetna Merger Could Shake Up Your Health Care - but How?

Doctors, druggists say they'll be watching for effect on prices, consumer choice

(INDIANAPOLIS) -  CVS's purchase of health insurance company Aetna could affect you when you go to the doctor or the drugstore -- but no one's quite sure how.

The $69 billion deal announced Sunday would combine the nation's second-largest pharmacy chain with the third-largest health insurer. That could affect prices and customer choices, but Indiana State Medical Association board president John McGoff says it's not clear which way. He notes antitrust regulators will be asking the same question.

Indiana Pharmacists Alliance executive vice president Randy Hitchens says a 2015 merger between United Healthcare and the pharmacy benefit manager Catamaran reduced consumer choices. But he notes CVS is already Aetna's pharmacy benefit manager, so that effect could be baked in already.

CVS's announcement Sunday came 10 months after Aetna gave up on its planned merger with rival insurer Humana after a court blocked it on antitrust grounds. Unlike that deal, the CVS deal is a so-called vertical merger, with two companies which don't compete directly. Historically, those purchases are less likely to be challenged in court. But the Justice Department announced two weeks ago it would do just that to block the merger of AT&T and TimeWarner.

(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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