Acquisitions in the healthcare market leave employers uneasy

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Recent acquisition announcements in the healthcare industry, if approved, could not only change the way U.S. employers design their health plan strategies, but also how employees access healthcare in the future, according to a recent Aon survey.

While the majority of employers are taking a wait-and-see approach to mergers such as CVS/Aetna and Optum/DaVita Medical Group, others are considering making immediate changes to healthcare strategies, particularly around how their prescription drug coverage operates with their overall medical plans.

Jim Winkler, global chief innovation officer for Aon’s health & benefits groups, says when it comes to healthcare strategies, employers tend to work around a three-to-five year cycle of when to adjust their health plans based on cost, vendor, program design and health improvement standpoints.

“What changes, if any, do employers need to make to their current program in order to respond to changes in the marketplace and in order to meet whatever their broader objectives and human capital objectives are,” Winkler says.

Significant impact

Aon asked 450 employers from large and mid-size companies about potential implications the recently announced CVS/Aetna move and other potential deals, such as Optum and DaVita Medical, could have on their healthcare strategies.

Also see:3 questions advisers should ask about the potential CVS/Aetna deal.”

A majority, 85%, thinks there will be either significant or moderate changes to the way employees access care in the future:

· 14% expect significant change in how or where employees will access healthcare.
· 71% expect moderate changes in how or where employees will access healthcare.
· 15% expect no real impact in how and where employees access healthcare.

The survey also found that six out of 10 employers say they are likely to make changes to their healthcare strategies, though there are differences in how quickly those changes will happen:

· 23% expect the changes will accelerate revisiting or adjusting their overall healthcare strategy.
· 38% expect the changes will delay revisiting or adjusting their overall healthcare strategy.
· 39% expect the changes will have no impact on their overall healthcare strategy.

Winkler says these results confirm that employers think these deals, particularly for the potential CVS/Aetna combination, are meaningful and will have important implications to the way employees and their families’ access healthcare.

“Certainly, the specifics of how these deals unfold will influence how employers respond,” Winkler says. “It will be important for employers to monitor all of these situations as they take shape.”

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