CVS Health Corp.’s deal to acquire Aetna Inc. for about $67.5 billion incash and stock has the health care industry abuzz, nearlyovershadowing the other weekend's major news, the passage of theSenate's tax bill. Granted it's going to takeexperts just a little bit longer to weigh the effects of that500-page document on health care, but for now, those in theindustry have plenty to say about the CVS/Aetnadeal.

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For the most part, everyone agrees that the move has thepotential to disrupt health care--whether it delivers, however,depends on a nunber of factors. What could change, and what wouldit mean for consumers? Let's hear from three industry leaders:

Brian Marcotte, CEO of the National Business
Group on Health in Washington, D.C.

"This acquisition is unlike others we’ve seen in health care,which have been more horizontal than vertical. We’ve seen othervertical acquisitions, such as hospitals becoming insurers, but theconcern we’ve had is that there’s not a good track record of thesehealth care mergers improving customer experience or lowering thecost of health care.

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"What’s interesting about this one is that it does have thepotential to create better access and more convenience to consumersthrough CVS’ retail pharmacy network. However, CVS will need toexpand the number of its clinics, and not just the number oflocations, but maybe also the breath of services in order to dothat. If they can deliver that, it could result in lower costs forthese types of services.

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"One of the challenges with retail clinics today is that theypretty much sit outside the health care ecosystem. Withoutnetworks, is there a way to integrate the health care delivery inretail pharmacies into the broader delivery system, and share thedata and integrate better with primary care offices? Maybe retailcan take on routine care, freeing up primary care physicians todeal with more complex issues.

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"The question that employers will have is whether this newentity can execute, given that health care is local, with a veryfragmented delivery system. The track record from the mergerswithin health care haven’t been great, so skepticism will be aroundexecution – but the opportunity is there.

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"The other question is whether this new entity can disrupt anoverly complex pharmacy supply chain, or will it otherwise continueto entrench an already entrenched business model? There arepossibilities around the management of both pharmacy and medicalcollectively. When managed separately, that sometimes creates thewrong incentives, but integrating pharmacy and medical managementcan impact the total costs of care."

Jim Winkler, global chief innovation officer
of Health at Aon, Norwalk, Connecticut

"We’re all working off fairly limited amount of information atthis point, but to us, this is a transaction that has the potentialto be transformative as it relates to how health care is accessedand paid for – and not just pharmaceuticals.

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"There is lots of coverage around pharmaceuticals, given this isCVS, but we look at this as one of many things that is happening inhealth care that seeks to transform the way we seek care fromtraditional players in this ecosystem – potentially creating spacefor new entrants to come in.

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"While this is a very big transaction between two very bigcompanies, this is really going to be one where innovation has tohave as big as a seat at the table as integration when the twocompanies come together. In a typical merger-of-equals bycompetitors in the same space, it’s really about integration –taking out costs. But since this transaction is by adjacent playersin different parts of the health ecosystem, it’s really importantfor the leaders to think about how to build a combined companythat’s driven by innovation and transformation in themarketplace.

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"It’s not just about nuts and bolts about how to integrate thetwo – innovation will be the most impactful part of the successstory."

Dinesh Sheth, chief executive of Green CircleHealth
Pensacola Beach, Florida

"For Aetna, this deal makes perfect sense, to realize theirinvestment value for their stockholders. It’s a great transactionfor Aetna on the business side. For CVS, it remains to be seen.They are branching out into unchartered territory. They already owna PBM, Caremark, but to buy an insurance company – it’s a veryinteresting expansion of their own business.

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"It’s intriguing how they are going to monetize [theacquisition] when they are projecting only $750 million inpost-merger synergies. That’s not a huge consideration for theprice they are paying. I think the success of the merger is goingto depend on how much additional business will be derived from theinsurance business.

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"Now from the consumers’ point of view, if an individual isalready an Aetna customer, then there’s not much change, as Aetnais already using CVS Caremark as their PBM. CVS has other clientsthat buy from the PBM, and for those clients, the question will bewhat synergies Aetna brings to the table.

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"If you are a large corporate client and are using CVS Caremark,but your insurance is provided by Anthem or UnitedHealthcare, doyou now go to Aetna? Then you will be helping grow that side of thebusiness for CVS."

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.