CVS Health’s $10.6 billion acquisition of Oak Street Health plants another flag in the latest era of health insurance industry consolidation — one defined by insurers moving beyond managing medical and drug benefits, and into directly providing care to people in a primary care office or at home.
The financial benefits are immense for insurers that own those low-cost settings. Proactively managing patients’ health conditions and coordinating care could prevent some people from unnecessary, and costly, hospitalizations. When insurers can direct their members to clinics they own, they can also keep more of the premium dollars they collect. Instead of writing checks to outside doctors and facilities, they are writing checks to themselves — a profitable and controversial strategy that has been the cornerstone of UnitedHealth Group for the past decade.
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