Healthcare megadeals may have major long-term impact, Moody’s says

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/healthcare-megadeals-may-have-major-long-term-impact-moodys-says/521578/

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Dive Brief:

  • CVS Health’s plan to buy Aetna could have a significant impact on hospitals, health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), according to Moody’s Investors Service’s Healthcare Quarterly.
  • Payers’ vertical integration strategies are credit negative for hospitals, but hospitals’ plans to make generic drugs and other new strategies are positives, Moody’s said.
  • On the payer side, Moody’s said mergers between health insurers and PBMs are credit negative in the short-term because of increased debt and risk associated with integration. However, in the long run, these deals may lower costs.

Moody’s said hospitals may feel the impact of UnitedHealth’s Optum buying DaVita Medical and Humana investing in Kindred Healthcare. However, Cigna’s purchase of Express Scripts won’t have much of an effect on hospitals.

Payers’ vertical integration strategies, such as buying physician groups and non-acute care providers, are credit negative for nonprofit and for-profit hospitals and put more pressure on hospital volumes and margins, Moody’s said.

The issue comes from payer vertical integration being able to offer preventive, outpatient and post-acute care for lower costs than acute care hospitals. These initiatives will have an increasingly disruptive impact to hospitals’ credit quality, according to the report.

“These strategies would place insurers in direct competition with hospitals, which offer the same services and are also seeking to align with physician groups,” Moody’s said.

On the payer side, two recently announced megadeals, CVS-Aetna and Cigna-Express Scripts, are both designed to control rising medical costs and target drug prescriptions, which now account for nearly one-fifth of total health spending. While payers have been able to limit growth in utilization, medical inflation and sources of medical care, prescription drug costs continue to rise, Moody’s said.

Though Moody’s expects both deals to be credit negative in the short-term, they have the potential to turn credit positive in the long run, especially CVS-Aetna. “The combined company has the potential to lower medical costs as Aetna will be better able to engage with its members as they purchase drugs at CVS retail pharmacies or through its prescription drug programs,” Moody’s said.

These deals will result in most payers having to contract with a PBM owned by a competitor. Moody’s expects PBM competition to remain high. Payer-owned PBMs must still offer the same cost savings to competitors to keep customers.

Out of the recent megadeals, only CVS buying Aetna is expected to have “more significant impact” for payers. The other announced transactions aren’t expected to cause many problems for insurance companies, Moody’s said.

Looking at initiatives that are in development, Moody’s said none of the big-name plans are expected to have much of an impact on the healthcare segments. These include the Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan Chase’s partnership, Apple opening medical clinics and entering the medical record business or nonprofit hospitals forming a generics company.

 

Walmart, Not Amazon, May Turn Out To Be The Real Health Care Disruptor

https://www.investors.com/news/walmart-humana-amazon-disrupt-health-care/

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Every Amazon (AMZN) flirtation toward the health care industry has sent hearts racing on Wall Street. Yet Amazon appears to be having commitment issues, and others have leapt while Jeff Bezos hesitated. Now comes a possible Walmart (WMT)-Humana (HUM) merger. A Walmart acquisition of the insurer could fundamentally reshape health care delivery in ways that Amazon may have trouble matching.

A Walmart-Humana deal could potentially transform the health care market for seniors, a demographic that is critical for both companies.

Walmart already operates about 4,500 in-store pharmacies and 2,900 vision centers, but a Humana deal would likely accelerate its efforts in developing in-store clinics. The clinics haven’t been a knockout success, but Walmart has been learning, wrote Tracy Watts, U.S. health reform leader at Mercer, in a blog post. “This partnership could foster new ways to bring people what they want and need,” she wrote, highlighting health care access in rural areas.

CVS Health (CVS), which is in the process of acquiring Aetna (AET), is planning to revamp its drugstores to provide more health services. Walmart has greater financial wherewithal to execute the strategy and its supercenters may be a more natural fit for health services.

Strategic Merits For Walmart-Humana

A Walmart-Humana tie-up has strategic merits for the retail giant, wrote Stifel analyst Mark Astrachan. He expects it would drive greater store traffic and produce health care cost savings, helping the discounter to keep investing to fend off Amazon.

Savings would come from closer ties to Humana, the largest remaining independent pharmacy benefits manager. That would help to reduce drug prices for Walmart’s 1.5 million U.S. employees, Astrachan wrote.

Humana recently purchased a major stake in the home health care business of Kindred Healthcare, a natural fit for Walmart’s home delivery business.

Still, there would be challenges. Piper Jaffray analyst Sarah James sees hurdles to staffing up clinics amid a nursing shortage that’s pushing up wages. She also questioned how attractive a merger would be for Humana. Humana has an enviable Medicare position while Walmart has a smaller store base compared to CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA).

Still, Humana shares rose 4.4% on the stock market today, even as the Dow Jones, S&P 500 index and Nasdaq composite all lost about 2% or more. Meanwhile, shares of Walmart lost 3.8% and Amazon skidded 5.2%.

Amazon Threat Spurs Action

So far Amazon’s disruptive impact on health care has been all about what others are doing. Since reports last summer that Amazon might enter the retail prescription industry, the shockwaves have set in motion one deal after another. First it was CVS buying Aetna and beginning to offer same-day delivery in major markets, and next-day nationwide. Albertsons grabbed the Rite Aid (RAD) stores not bought by Walgreens. Last month, Cigna (CI) announced the purchase of Express Scripts (ESRX), the largest of the pharmacy benefit managers.

Options to enter the prescription drug business have narrowed for Amazon but haven’t been closed off entirely. One potential avenue would be acquiring Walgreens.

In January, Amazon announced a health care venture with JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Berkshire Hathaway (BRKB). Health care stocks tumbled amid fear that Amazon would use the same formula that slayed book sellers and department stores. The scariest part: The companies say they have no intent to earn a profit from the effort. Yet they also confessed to a lack of any coherent plan for putting still-to-be-formed cost-saving ideas to work.

 

 

Global M&A activity hits record high on mega US health care deals

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/04/global-ma-activity-hits-record-high-on-mega-us-health-care-deals.html

A CVS Pharmacy store is seen in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 30, 2017.

 

  • In the first three months of 2018, there were 3,774 deals globally, totaling $890.7 billion.
  • So far this year, there have been $393.9 billion invested in U.S. companies.
  • Domestic activity was also particularly strong in China.

Merger and acquisition (M&A) activity across the world has hit a seventeen-year-record high in the first quarter of 2018, according to a report by research firm Mergermarket.

In the first three months of 2018, there were 3,774 deals globally, totaling $890.7 billion, it said Wednesday. This was the strongest start to the year since 2001, when Mergermarket began recording the data, and represents an 18 percent increase in value compared to the first quarter of 2017.

“The extraordinary surge in dealmaking seen at the end of 2017 has carried through into 2018,” Jonathan Klonowski, research editor at Mergermarket said in the quarterly report, citing pressure from shareholders and a search for innovation as the main drivers.

“Amazon’s move into pharmaceuticals appears to have been a catalyst for dealmaking in health care-related areas with the CVS/Aetna deal announced in December and the Cigna/Express Scripts transaction this quarter,” he added.

Amazon announced a partnership with J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett in January to reduce health costs for U.S. employees. The move has sparked fears that the retail giant could enter and compete with traditional health care businesses. As result, the sector has consolidated to fight possible future competition from Amazon.

Cigna bought Express Scripts in a $54 billion cash-and-stock deal in early March. CVS also approved the acquisition of Aetna for about $69 billion in cash and stock last month.

Such deals have been particularly relevant in the U.S., where M&A activity during the first quarter of the year represented 44.2 percent of the total global share.

So far this year, there have been $393.9 billion invested in U.S. companies, according to the report. This represented a 26.1 percent increase from the same period a year ago. “Domestic dealmaking has been a key factor registering 952 deals worth $330.8 billion,” the report said.

But it’s not only U.S. companies that seem to be consolidating in their own market. Domestic activity was also particularly strong in China, where firms spent $68.7 billion — this was the highest first quarter on record.

“Domestic M&A accounts for 85.2 percent of Chinese acquisitions in Q1 (first quarter) 2018, a significant increase from the 61.6 percent and 71.3 percent seen during 2016 and 2017,” Mergermarket said.

Walmart reportedly in negotiations to buy Humana

http://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/walmart-reportedly-negotiations-buy-humana?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWkRKaVpHRTBPRFZtWXpobSIsInQiOiJMQWJiXC85cGw1S2hcL3N0VlIzS2I2S3BqamJoRGFJeUxwbzgrUjVmYk5OZ2I5aDAzTmkyMXptQlpONCtsb3oyZVlqV2tZQ3haOVZWeko0cDhFbVVLbTJtU3F6ZGJUNWNNRGpMRHI4R3hBdzVYU0tLUVFpcjhpSlwvRXpmcXFtVUpVbyJ9

Credit: Google Street View

 

Deal has been long speculated since announced $69 billion merger between CVS Health and Aetna.

Walmart is in preliminary negotiations to buy Humana, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

There are few details in the potential deal that has not been announced publicly by either the retailer or the insurer.

But speculation has existed among industry analysts for months after the announced $69 billion merger between CVS Health and Aetna.

Two years ago, Aetna was in a proposed $34 billion deal to buy Humana.

Walmart is facing increased competition from such an integrated pharmacy business and is currently in an arms race against Amazon as the online giant has made strides into the Medicaid market by offering those beneficiaries a discounted Prime membership.

Humana specializes in Medicare Advantage plans for seniors, a fast-growing demographic as baby boomers enter retirement age.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has shown support for MA plans, said David Friend, MD, chief transformation officer of The BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence & Innovation.

Friend predicts that due to the partnerships and mergers between healthcare companies, retailers and insurers, the traditional pharmacy benefit model could become extinct.

“The CVS-Aetna merger was a watershed moment in healthcare. But Walmart-Humana signifies the beginning of the avalanche that will cause the entire healthcare system to converge,” Friend said by statement. “And as this deal signifies, the healthcare organization that accurately captures and analyzes the data of the fast-growing U.S. demographic — seniors — stands to lead the industry of the future.”

 

State of California files suit against Sutter Health over antitrust allegations

https://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/news/2018/03/30/state-files-antitrust-suit-against-sutter-health.html

Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento

The State of California on Friday filed an antitrust suit against Sutter Health, accusing the Sacramento-based health system of practices that have driven up the cost of care in Northern California.

Sutter is accused of preventing insurance companies from negotiating with the health system on anything but an all-or-nothing basis, which requires insurers to contract with the entire health system, and not just parts of it. The lawsuit also alleges the health system has prevented insurance companies from offering low-cost health plan options and set excessively high out-of-network rates, while restricting the publication of provider cost information for patients’ review.

A Los Angeles Times analysis of medical care costs, which is referenced in the lawsuit, found that hospitals in Northern California’s six most populous counties collect about 56 percent more revenue per patient per day from insurance companies and patients compared to hospitals in Southern California’s six largest counties.

At a news conference this morning, Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the investigation has been in the works for about six years, prompted by complaints from patients and employers about high medical care costs in Northern California.

“It’s time to hold health care corporations accountable,” Becerra said at the news conference. “If we do nothing, it will continue to happen.”

The state attorney general’s office said in a statement that the “excess profits” Sutter took in from its allegedly illegal conduct was put toward “waves of acquisitions, extreme levels of executive compensation and financing its own insurance arm.”

“Much of the increased cost of health care in Northern California is attributable to Sutter and its anticompetitive contractual practices which it has imposed as a result of its market power,” the complaint against Sutter states. “Specifically, Sutter embarked on an intentional, and successful, strategy of 
securing market power in certain local markets in Northern California.”

The lawsuit seeks to enjoin Sutter from continuing its allegedly illegal contracting practices, including all-or-nothing contract negotiations and so-called price-secrecy terms. The lawsuit also seeks to “restore competition” by requiring Sutter to stagger its negotiations between its providers of inpatient services, outpatient services and affiliated physician groups that refer patients to non-Sutter hospitals.

The lawsuit also seeks to stop Sutter from transferring money earned by its health care providers to finance its health plan, Sutter Health Plus.

“We are aware that a complaint was filed, but we have not seen it at this time, so we cannot comment on specific claims,” said Karen Garner, a spokeswoman for Sutter, in an emailed statement. “It’s important to note that publicly available data (from the OSHPD) show that on average, total charges for an inpatient stay in a Sutter hospital are lower than what other Northern CA hospitals charge.” The OSHPD is the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.