CVS’ Acquisition of Oak Street Health Would Be a Bad Deal for Patients & Communities

February 7, 2023 Press Release

Washington, D.C. — On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that CVS, owner of the largest drugstore chain, pharmacy benefit manager (Caremark), and third largest health insurer (Aetna) in the U.S., is nearing a giant $10.5 billion deal to buy Oak Street Health, a network of 150+ primary care centers for seniors with Medicare Advantage plans. In response, the American Economic Liberties Project released the following statement.

“By purchasing Oak Street Health, CVS hopes to take even more of control of insurance, doctors, medical records, and pharmacies across the country,” said Sara Sirota, Policy Analyst at the American Economic Liberties Project. “It’s clear that CVS’s goal is to become another Big Medicine giant like UnitedHealth Group, where payers and providers can coordinate special compensation, referral privileges, and medical record surveillance while undermining independent healthcare businesses and patient privacy. This deal will be especially disastrous for seniors, who will have little choice but to rely on CVS’s notoriously poor customer service model combined with Oak Street’s physician practices, which have reportedly been staffed without any doctor on site. The Federal Trade Commission should immediately look to block it.”

In a signal of what may be to come for patients of Oak Street Health if an acquisition is finalized, CVS, after driving independent drug stores out of local markets, is currently in the process of cutting pharmacy hours across the majority of its sites, as it’s unable to attract pharmacists willing to work in substandard conditions. Meanwhile, an investigation by Capitol Forum in November revealed that more than 20% of Oak Street Health clinics list no doctor on staff, posing a risk to patient safety.

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The American Economic Liberties Project works to ensure America’s system of commerce is structured to advance, rather than undermine, economic liberty, fair commerce, and a secure, inclusive democracy. Economic Liberties believes true economic liberty means entrepreneurs and businesses large and small succeed on the merits of their ideas and hard work; commerce empowers consumers, workers, farmers, and engineers instead of subjecting them to discrimination and abuse from financiers and monopolists; foreign trade arrangements support domestic security and democracy; and wealth is broadly distributed to support equitable political power.