By Alan Murray and Geoffrey Smith
December 4, 2017

Good morning,

CVS’s $69 billion bid to buy Aetna is being portrayed as a defensive move, with CVS scrambling in response to rumors that Amazon is entering the pharmacy business and Aetna rebounding from its blocked bid to merge with Humana.

But I think it’s more than that. Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini and CVS CEO Larry Merlo are both visionary business leaders, who are trying to break out of the traditional confines of their respective businesses. With action in Washington on health care stalled, they believe they can forge a new model for the industry that can both improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs—something the government has repeatedly failed to do.

At the core of the deal is a plan to use CVS’s ubiquitous stores (10,000 in the U.S.) as a means of providing convenient and low-cost care. In addition, the combined company could use Aetna’s treasure trove of data to help provide more “wellness” care, advice on nutrition and exercise, and other types of preventive or non-acute care. While the companies say they will recognize about $750 million in cost-cutting “synergies,” Merlo told The Wall Street Journal “this transaction is about growth and expansion, not contraction.”

Merlo will run the combined company; Bertolini will sit on the board. You can hear Bertolini’s view of how the health care business needs to change in this interview I did with him at Fortune Brainstorm Health.

I’m in Guangzhou today, and will report tomorrow on Fortune Brainstorm Tech International. News below.

Alan Murray


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