CVS Health plans to open primary care doctor offices

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The company said it would bring health services to a wider swath of consumers

CVS, which added the word “Health” to its corporate name a few years ago, has announced plans to move even more deeply into the health care field.

Company CEO Karen Lynch, addressing reporters and analysts on the company’s second-quarter earnings call, said CVS Health plans to provide primary health care services by merging with or acquiring a provider. With that move, the company has telegraphed its intentions to compete with Amazon and Walgreens – two companies that are already moving in that direction. 

In addition to its retail drug stores throughout the U.S., CVS Health operates MiniuteClinics inside some of its stores, where customers can get a vaccination or urgent care. The company also owns Aetna, a major health insurance provider.

The addition of primary care services would greatly expand the company’s health care footprint. It would offer doctor offices that could provide annual checkups, as well as treat acute symptoms or injuries. 

Making health services more accessible

Company executives have said such an expansion would bring health care services to many people who have no doctor or who are underserved. It would also provide services during off hours and weekends when private practice doctor offices are closed.

Rather than build from scratch, company officials have said the best strategy would be to acquire an entity that is already providing those services. 

Walgreens and Amazon have already moved into the primary care space, with the former opening hundreds of primary care offices in partnership with VillageMD. Amazon announced in July that it is buying One Medical, a chain of primary health care offices, for nearly $4 billion. One Medical has 188 locations in 25 markets.

Aetna expands offerings in California

Meanwhile, CVS Health has announced that Aetna is entering the individual insurance exchange marketplace in California with its Aetna CVS Health co-branded insurance product. The company says those plans will provide affordable access to health care for more Californians.

"With millions of Americans being uninsured or underinsured, our plans provide quality care, at an affordable price and the ability to conveniently access this care using virtual technology and in-person care in their communities," said Dr. Kyu Rhee, chief medical officer at Aetna. "By bridging the gap between people and the support and services they need, we can offer a human-centered approach where, when, and how they need us."

As these plans roll out, CVS Health says policyholders will have access to Aetna's expansive network of primary care doctors, mental health providers, specialists, and hospitals.

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