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Consumers Union Concerned by Consolidation Rush in Health Market as Cigna Buys Express Scripts

Thursday, March 8, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Health insurer Cigna today agreed to purchase Express Scripts, a leading pharmacy benefits manager (PBM), the latest in a string of mergers and consolidation across the health market. This announcement follows the proposed merger between CVS Health, the nation’s second largest retail pharmacy chain and a PBM giant, and Aetna, the third largest health insurer.

Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, expressed concern over the trend of consolidation in a field already dominated by a just a few, powerful players. The consumer group recently testified at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing regarding the potential consumer harms that could arise from cross-market consolidation of this kind.

George Slover, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “The Cigna and Express Scripts merger proposal only further demonstrates that the concerns we have raised regarding the Aetna-CVS merger are serious. The domino effect of these types of deals is real, and a sign that this type of cross-sector consolidation craze will only accelerate.

“As we told House lawmakers, this type of merger would create a market-straddling giant, with new profit-maximizing incentives that could result in restricted choices throughout the marketplace, ultimately leading to higher costs and potentially poorer coverage and care for consumers. If Cigna is allowed to become the latest in the trend to take PBM needs in-house, it is more likely that consumers could end up at the mercy of a handful of giants — each with its own siloed services —  and the choices they now enjoy for medical care and pharmacy needs becoming a thing of the past.”