The merger of CVS Health, one of the nation’s largest pharmacy retailers, with third-largest health insurer Aetna has the potential to transform the health care system and raises concerns about the effect the merger could have on drug prices and competition. This would be the first time that a large pharmacy retailer gains control of one of the nation’s largest health insurers. CVS Health not only has 9,800 retail outlets in nearly every state (except Wyoming), but also 94 million members in pharmacy benefit manager CVS/Caremark. Continue reading
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Reporters dig into pharmacy benefit concerns following merger announcements
The proposed combination of one of the nation’s largest health insurers, Cigna Corp., and the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits manager (PBM), Express Scripts Holdings Company, is unlikely to benefit consumers much, if at all. But to their credit, health care journalists are digging into how consumers might benefit from the deal.
These questions are important, given that the Cigna-Express Scripts deal follows an announcement three months earlier that CVS Health would pay $69 billion for Aetna Inc., another major health insurers, in a deal “that could reshape the health industry,” as the New York Times reported. Pharmacy retailer CVS Health also owns a PBM, CVS/Caremark. Continue reading
Reopening of CVS store highlights health access issues in Baltimore
When Baltimore erupted last spring in the wake of the death of a young black man in police custody, the destruction and looting of one neighborhood CVS Pharmacy quickly became a symbol of the chaos.
Now, as the legal proceedings in the case of Freddie Gray continue, a small part of the Maryland city has healed with the reopening of the store on March 6. Continue reading
TV report leads to $2.25 million HIPAA settlement
A report by Bob Segall of WTHR-Indianapolis prompted the federal investigation that led to CVS Pharmacy’s agreement to pay $2.25 million for violating consumers’ privacy by not properly disposing of “protected health information such as labels from prescription bottles and old prescriptions.”
The acting director of HHS’ Office for Civil Rights said Segall’s award-winning investigation “formed the basis of the [federal] investigation.”
Segall won a 2006 Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism for his investigation. He also wrote about how he reported the story in an article for AHCJ: How we did it: Diving into prescription privacy.
“I think I was as surprised as anyone when i got a call from HHS” telling him about the settlement. Segall says that for the past two-and-a-half years, he has been calling the Office of Civil Rights every 60 to 90 days to find out the status of its investigation.
“After two years, I wasn’t expecting their investigation would lead to anything,” Segall says. “It’s not every day that they impose fines for HIPAA violations.”
He says the victims in Indiana were pleasantly surprised, though some are disappointed they won’t be seeing any of the $2.25 million.
“As a journalist who deals with the repercussions of HIPAA on almost a daily basis, there are so many times brick walls are put up for journalists” in the name of HIPAA privacy rules. Segall says he is gratified to see the law “really does have some teeth and the Office of Civil Rights is really going to pursue cases like this one.” While he says we’ve all seen alleged violations in which nothing is done, this settlement will send a message to companies that deal with consumer health information.
“I think it’s nice to see that this law, that for journalists does nothing but stand in the way, does help consumers.”