Walgreens’ VillageMD inks $9B deal to buy Summit Health, marking largest physician deal of the year

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/providers/walgreens-villagemd-inks-9b-deal-buy-summit-health-expand-healthcare-footprint

VillageMD, which is majority owned by Walgreens Boots Alliance, plans to shell out nearly $9 billion to pick up medical practice Summit Health, the parent company of urgent care clinic chain CityMD.

The deal, announced Monday morning, is valued at $8.9 billion and includes investments from Walgreens Boots Alliance and Cigna Corp’s healthcare unit Evernorth, which will also become a minority owner in VillageMD. Bloomberg first reported on a potential deal back in late October.

The deal will expand Walgreen’s reach into primary, specialty and urgent care. The transaction creates one of the largest independent provider groups in the U.S., the organizations said. Combined, VillageMD and Summit Health will operate more than 680 provider locations in 26 markets. The two companies will have 20,000 employees.

Walgreens said Monday it will invest $3.5 billion through an even mix of debt and equity to support the acquisition, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023. The company will remain the largest and consolidating shareholder of VillageMD with about 53% stake.

Walgreens also raised its fiscal year 2025 sales goal for its U.S. healthcare business to between $14.5 billion and $16 billion from $11 billion to $12 billion previously. That business segment is now expected to achieve positive adjusted EBITDA by the end of fiscal year 2023. 

Last year, Walgreens invested $5.2 billion in VillageMD and said it planned to open at least 600 Village Medical at Walgreens primary-care practices across the country by 2025 and 1,000 by 2027.

The deal comes amid a frenzy of M&A activity in the past two years. Major retailers like CVS, Walgreens and Amazon are ramping up their focus on providing medical services to gain bigger footholds in the healthcare market.

Drugstore rival CVS Health won the bidding war for home health and technology services company Signify Health and plans to shell out $8 billion to acquire the company. Amazon also plans to buy primary care provider One Medical for $3.9 billion.

The M&A move signals that Walgreens wants to become a “dominant entity in the overall healthcare services ecosystem,” according to David Larsen, healthcare IT and digital health analyst at financial services firm BTIG.

“Walgreens Boots Alliance is graduating up from being a drug retail store to owning the life-cycle of members’ health,” he wrote in an analyst’s note. “We view this transaction as being a statement by the market that primary care continues to be one of the key drivers of healthcare long-term.”

The deal also will put additional pressure on CVS Health to break into the primary care business “sooner rather than later,” Larsen wrote. 

“I think at the most strategic level, I think there continues to be recognition that an integrated, coordinated, connected model of care is one that will ultimately deliver the best results. You see this through Optum’s acquisition of Kelsey-Seybold Clinic and VillageMD’s acquisition of Summit Health,” Tim Barry, CEO and chair of VillageMD, said in an interview with Fierce Healthcare.

“If we’re going to ultimately stem the rising tide of this fee-for-service healthcare system, we need a better solution, and that solution needs to have doctors working with other doctors in a coordinated way and trying to solve the unique problems that these patients have and making sure that the right doctors are accessing the patient at the right time, and doing it all underneath the umbrella of a risk-based contract,” Barry said.

He added, “We think that this is going to continue to be where healthcare goes. And, we have to do it in a way that is integrated and value-oriented. Any organization focused on doing that, and doing that at size and scale, is going to continue, I think, to be the successful winners of our healthcare system.”

In 2019, Summit Medical Group, a physician-owned and governed multispecialty group, merged with CityMD, a leading urgent care company in New York City. The combined organization, Summit Health, has more than 370 locations in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Oregon.

VillageMD provides value-based primary care for patients at traditional free-standing practices, Village Medical at Walgreens practices, at home and via virtual visits. VillageMD and Village Medical have grown to 22 markets and are responsible for more than 1.6 million patients, according to the company.

Barry said the combination of VillageMD and Summit Health-CityMD will enable the organizations to scale up value-based care and build out integrated primary and specialty care services.

“If you look at the long history of Summit Health, it’s an organization that has done some very innovative things. The way that they deliver multispecialty care, it is truly integrated, it’s truly connected and they are known as the preeminent brand in their marketplace. They also have CityMD, which is one of the more unique and differentiated urgent care models out there in the market. They really are a best-of-breed organization,” he said.

“When I look at what we’ve been able to do at VillageMD, we built this incredible model of value-based primary care delivery. The idea of bringing these two organizations together to bring those best-of-breed capabilities under one umbrella was just so compelling. We will soon be able to offer a more comprehensive, integrated and connected model by also offering other specialty services to our patients, but all still done through a value or risk-based reimbursement structure.”

Barry is bullish on the combined capabilities of the two companies in the primary and specialty care markets. 

“We’ll be delivering a consistent value-based model of integrated, multispecialty care in a way that delivers the best clinical results on the planet,” he said.

Jeff Alter, CEO of Summit Health-CityMD, said in a statement that the deal adds Summit Health’s expertise and geographic coverage to VillageMD’s proven value-based primary care approach.

The acquisition also expands Walgreens’ reach into providing medical care directly to patients. “This transaction accelerates growth opportunities through a strong market footprint and wide network of providers and patients across primary, specialty and urgent care,” Roz Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, said in a statement.

With Cigna’s investment, the combined company will be able to tap into Evernorth’s health services capabilities to potentially lower healthcare costs, Barry said. Evernorth encompasses Cigna’s health services businesses including pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts  

“In order to be a risk-based provider or a value-based provider, you have to have contracts with a payer that allows you to work in this value or risk-based construct. We learned over the years that Cigna has been a really good partner to us on that journey,” Barry said. 

“There are companies that [Cigna] has purchased over the years that have different specializations and capabilities that we believe ultimately will allow us to deliver better care to our patients,” he noted. “Evernorth has some capabilities tied to behavioral health, and they have some capabilities tied to the management of specialty pharmaceutical spend, which everyone knows those costs continue to be soaring. We both liked the idea of supporting an organization like ours that’s going to continue to grow and continues to be focused on risk and value.”

With the investment in VillageMD and Summit Health, Cigna gets a leg up in the primary care space as it looks to build out its Evernorth division.

“Our collaboration with VillageMD accelerates our efforts to improve the way care is accessed and delivered,” said Eric Palmer, CEO of Evernorth, in a statement. “Harnessing the breadth of Evernorth’s health services capabilities and connecting them with physicians who provide care in a value-based model like VillageMD, helps more people to get the right care at the right time—driving better health and value.” 

Pharmacy chains rapidly expand into primary care

https://mailchi.mp/cfd0577540a3/the-weekly-gist-november-11-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

Retailers and insurers are building out their primary care strategies in a bid to become the new front door for patients seeking healthcare services, especially seniors on highly profitable Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. In the graphic above, we examine the capabilities of three of the largest pharmacy chains—CVS Health, Walgreens, and Walmart—to deliver full-service primary care across in-person and virtual settings.

CVS pioneered the pivot to care provision in 2006 with its acquisition of MinuteClinic, which now has over 1,000 locations. The company has further expanded its concept of pairing retail and pharmacy services with primary care by opening over 100 HealthHUBs, which provide an expanded slate of care services. However, CVS lags competitors in the rollout of full-service primary care practices, with its proposed physician-led Super Clinics still stuck in the planning stages.

Walgreens, with its majority stake in VillageMD (on track for 200 co-branded practices by the end of the year) and the recent acquisition of Summit Health (which operates another 370 primary and urgent care clinics) has assembled the most impressive primary care footprint of the three companies. 

Walmart, the largest by number of stores but also the newest to healthcare, has opened more than 25 Walmart Health Centers, a step up from earlier experimentation with in-store care clinics, offering more services and partnering with Epic Systems to integrate electronic health records. 

CVS’s key advantage over its competitors comes from its payer business, having acquired Aetna in 2018, now the fourth-largest MA payer by membership. Walgreens and Walmart have both aligned themselves with UnitedHealth Group (UHG) to participate in MA, with Walmart having struck a ten-year partnership to steer UHG MA beneficiaries to Walmart Health Centers in Florida and Georgia. 

While aligning with UHG expands the reach of these retail giants into MA risk, UHG, whose OptumHealth division is by far the largest employer of physicians nationwide, remains the healthcare juggernaut most poised to unseat incumbent providers as the home for consumers’ healthcare needs.

Amazon to acquire One Medical in $3.9B deal

Amazon plans to acquire virtual and in-person primary care company One Medical, the online retailer said July 21.  

In a cash deal valued at $3.9 billion, the aim is to combine One Medical’s technology and team with Amazon, it said in a news release. The goal of the acquisition, according to the two companies, is to offer more convenient and affordable healthcare in-person and virtually.

“The opportunity to transform healthcare and improve outcomes by combining One Medical’s human-centered and technology-powered model and exceptional team with Amazon’s customer obsession, history of invention and willingness to invest in the long-term is so exciting,” said Amir Dan Rubin, CEO of One Medical, in a company news release. “There is an immense opportunity to make the healthcare experience more accessible, affordable, and even enjoyable, for patients, providers and payers. We look forward to innovating and expanding access to quality healthcare services together.”

Amazon will acquire One Medical for $18 per share.

Completion of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by One Medical’s shareholders and regulatory approval. 

If the acquisition is approved, Mr. Rubin will remain CEO of One Medical. 

Walgreens launches its clinical trial business

https://mailchi.mp/3390763e65bb/the-weekly-gist-june-24-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

The company plans to leverage its expansive retail footprint of 9,000 stores, as well as its pharmacy business and other care delivery assets, to connect patients with late-stage pharmaceutical trials either at retail clinics, at home, or virtually. To match patients with trials, Walgreens is partnering with health data company Pluto Health, which aggregates information across medical records, insurance claims, and other sources.

The Gist: The decentralized clinical trial business has been growing since the pandemic spurred a rapid switch to remote trial participation. This announcement comes roughly a year after competitor CVS announced its entry into the clinical trial space.

Most clinical research is centered in academic medical centers, which are disproportionally located in large urban areas, forcing many patients to travel long distances to participate. With large amounts of patient data and footprint spanning all fifty states, retail pharmacies are well-positioned to partner with investigators to reach patients who lack access to clinical trials today, given lack of financial resources or ability to travel.

Even the largest health systems dwarfed by industry giants

https://mailchi.mp/f6328d2acfe2/the-weekly-gist-the-grizzly-bear-conflict-manager-edition?e=d1e747d2d8

Insurers, retailers, and other healthcare companies vastly exceed health system scale, dwarfing even the largest hospital systems. The graphic above illustrates how the largest “mega-systems” lag other healthcare industry giants, in terms of gross annual revenue. 

Amazon and Walmart, retail behemoths that continue to elbow into the healthcare space, posted 2021 revenue that more than quintuples that of the largest health system, Kaiser Permanente. The largest health systems reported increased year-over-year revenue in 2021, largely driven by higher volumes, as elective procedures recovered from the previous year’s dip.

However, according to a recent Kaufman Hall report, while health systems, on average, grew topline revenue by 15 percent year-over-year, they face rising expenses, and have yet to return to pre-pandemic operating margins. 

Meanwhile, the larger companies depicted above, including Walmart, Amazon, CVS Health, and UnitedHealth Group, are emerging from the pandemic in a position of financial strength, and continue to double down on vertical integration strategies, configuring an array of healthcare assets into platform businesses focused on delivering value directly to consumers.

Walmart partners with Epic for its health technology platform

https://mailchi.mp/a2cd96a48c9b/the-weekly-gist-october-1-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

Walmart to Deploy Epic EHR Platform in 4 New Health Centers

This week, retail giant Walmart announced a partnership with Epic, the country’s most widely-used electronic health record (EHR) system, as the technology platform to support its health and wellness businesses. Epic will first be installed in four Walmart Health Center clinics slated to open in Florida early next year.

The company currently operates 20 health centers in Georgia, Arkansas and the Chicago area, offering an expanded range of services including comprehensive primary care, behavioral health, dental, hearing and vision care, as well as labs and other diagnostics. Skeptics have noted that Walmart has fallen behind in its ambitious plans to broadly roll out the expanded clinics, the first of which opened in an Atlanta exurb in 2019.

The partnership with Epic, which is used by more than 2,000 hospitals nationwide, signals that Walmart is serious about expanding its role as a healthcare provider—and sees opportunity in being able to share information and connect with health systems and doctors’ offices.

However, the vision of a “unified health record across care settings, geographies and multiple sources of health data” outlined by Walmart’s EVP of health and wellness may be more difficult to achieve than expected, if the experience of health systems, who have been stymied by upgrades and version mismatches in their quest for a unified EHR, is any indication.

Welcome, Walmart, to the wonderful world of EHRs—if you thought healthcare was complicated, just wait until you begin your first Epic install!

Dollar General: Rural America’s new health hub?

Dollar Stores and food deserts: The latest struggle between Main Street and  corporate America - CBS News

Dollar General hired its first CMO and plans to become a destination for affordable healthcare offerings.  

The retail giant will bring an increased assortment of medical, dental and health aids to its shelves as part of its first major jump into the healthcare industry, according to a July 7 news release.

Three things to know:

  1. In the United States, 75 percent of the population lives within five miles of one of the chain’s 17,400 stores. The chain recognizes that it’s postured to deliver care to rural communities that are traditionally underserved in the healthcare ecosystem, the release said.
  2. “At Dollar General, we are always looking for new ways to serve, and our customers have told us that they would like to see increased access to affordable healthcare products and services in their communities,” said Todd Vasos, Dollar General CEO. “Our goal is to build and enhance affordable healthcare offerings for our customers, especially in the rural communities we serve.”
  3. The chain selected Albert Wu, MD, as its first CMO and vice president. Dr. Wu will strengthen relationships with healthcare service providers to build a network for its customers. In his previous position, Dr. Wu worked at McKinsey, where he oversaw the care model for 250,000 rural patients and drove $2-5 billion in revenue.

Walmart, Amazon continue to build healthcare presence

Walmart Health: A Deep Dive into the $WMT Corporate Strategy in Health Care  | by Nisarg Patel | Medium

Late last week, retail giant Walmart announced its plan to acquire national telemedicine provider MeMD, for an undisclosed sum. According to Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Walmart’s executive vice president for health, the acquisition “complements our brick-and-mortar Walmart Health locations”, allowing the company to “expand access and reach consumers where they are”.

MeMD, founded in 2010, provides primary care and mental health services to five million patients nationally. The acquisition extends Walmart’s health delivery capabilities beyond the handful of in-store and store-adjacent clinics it runs, and follows the launch of its own Medicare Advantage-focused broker business, and partnership with Medicare Advantage start-up Clover Health to offer a co-branded insurance product. 

Walmart has been climbing the healthcare learning curve for several years, building on its sizeable retail pharmacy business, and seems to have hit on a successful formula in its latest in-person clinic model, which includes primary care, behavioral health, vision, and dental services. The retailer plans to add 22 new clinic locations by the end of this year, and its new telemedicine offering will allow it to expand its virtual reach even further.

The MeMD acquisition also represents a new front in Walmart’s head-to-head competition with Amazon, which launched its own national telemedicine service earlier this year. That service, Amazon Care, is targeted at the employer market, and right on cue, Amazon announced its first customer sale last week—to Precor, a fitness equipment company. 

Both retail giants are slowly circling the $3.6T healthcare industry, targeting inefficiencies by deploying their expertise in convenience and consumer engagement. Incumbents beware.

Could Dollar General help dramatically expand vaccine access?

https://mailchi.mp/94c7c9eca73b/the-weekly-gist-april-16-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

CDC in Talks With Dollar General to Expand Vaccinations

For some time, we’ve been focused on the efforts of Walmart to launch and grow a care delivery business, especially as it has piloted an expanded primary care clinic offering in a handful of states. We’ve long thought that access to basic care at the scale that Walmart brings could be transformative, given that more than half of Americans visit a Walmart store every week. Along those same lines, we’ve always wondered why Dollar General and Dollar Tree—each with around four times as many retail locations as Walmart—haven’t gotten into the retail clinic or pharmacy businesses.

(Part of the answer is ultra-lean staffingthis piece gives a good sense of the basic, and troubling, economics of dollar stores.) Now, as the federal government ramps up its efforts to widely distribute the COVID vaccines, it turns out that the CDC is actively discussing a partnership with Dollar General to administer the shots.

A fascinating new paper (still in preprint) from researchers at Yale shows why this could be a true gamechanger. The Biden administration, through its partnership with national and independent pharmacy providers, aims to have a vaccination site within five miles of 90 percent of the US population by next week. Compared to those pharmacy partners, researchers found, Dollar General stores are disproportionately located in areas of high “social vulnerability”, with lower income residents and high concentrations of disadvantaged groups. Particularly in the Southeast, a partnership with Dollar General would vastly increase access for low-income Black and Latino residents, allowing vaccine access within one mile for many, many more people. And the partnership could form the basis for future expansions of basic healthcare services to vulnerable and rural communities, particularly if some of the $7.5B in funding for COVID vaccine distribution went to helping dollar store locations bolster staffing and equipment to deliver basic health services. We’ll be watching with interest to see if the potential Dollar General partnership comes to fruition.