Earlier this year, health insurance giant Aetna was left broken-hearted when its $37 billion merger with Humana fell through because federal antitrust regulators apparently hate to see two mammoth insurers so in love with each other. But in this autumn season, there’s a rare bloom of corporate romance peeking out, as Aetna has reportedly found itself a suitor in the form of CVS Health. The Wall Street Journal — citing the ever-anonymous but always chatty “people familiar with the matter” — claims that CVS Health is angling to purchase the Connecticut-based Aetna for $200 a share. Though would place a price tag on this CVS Aetna deal at around $66 billion.
While most people know CVS for its vast chain of retail drugstores and pharmacies, parent company CVS Health also has businesses that are more directly related to Aetna’s operations, like CVS Caremark, which operates prescription benefits management (PBM) services for thousands of health insurance plans. In the world of prescription drugs and insurance, PBMs operate in the role of middle-man, negotiating prices with drug makers for insurance providers.
Aetna attempted to acquire Humana in 2015 — around the same time of another proposed insurance mega-merger between Cigna and Anthem. In July 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice, along with attorneys general from nine states, filed lawsuits seeking to halt both mergers, arguing that they would result in over-consolidation and fewer choices for insurance buyers in just about every type of health insurance: Individual plans purchased through exchanges; employer-sponsored group insurance; and plans sold to supplement Medicare.
Such DOJ lawsuits often end with the merger partners calling off the deal or making concessions to appease antitrust regulators, but Aetna and Humana attempted to make their case in court. In Jan. 2017, a federal judge ruled against the insurers, saying the merger would “likely to substantially lessen competition in Medicare Advantage” in each of the 364 counties challenging the deal.
The insurers subsequently called off their engagement in Feb. 2017.
We saw this news for the first time on The Consumerist.