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CVS Health CEO Believes that Changes to Obamacare Could Lead to "Unintended Consequences"

October 24, 2017 00:00 AM UTC
- Updated September 02, 2020 11:33 AM UTC

Larry Merlo discusses the company’s role in the murky future of privatized healthcare.

Larry, everyone is talking these days about the future of the Affordable Care Act. I'd like to get your take on what you think of President Trump's recent proposals to change it up? Our folks are kind of poring through all that to understand, if it does this, what are the unintended consequences that that creates? And you know, I would say the early returns are it's not complete enough. It's not far reaching enough to deal with the challenges that are in front of us. On one of the subjects of cost, the President says his executive orders will get low prices for great care. But the experts are saying that actually will make it more expensive for people who are really sick. What do you say about that? Yeah. I think that's what we have to understand. I think that that's what I was alluding to in terms of, if you do this-- you know, you squeeze the balloon here, the balloon expands here. And those are all the things that we're working to understand. Do you think that Americans would be better off with keeping the so-called Obamacare just as it is, even with its flaws? Would you favor that? I think it kind of goes back to that you know cost-quality-access equation. Where can we check the box and say, this is working. And where can we say, can't check the box here. We've got some problems. And you know, I think it would be great if we could acknowledge, here's where we've had success. Here's where our focus needs to be. Because at the end, the ultimate goal is where we started, how do we provide access to affordable care for all Americans? You know, I think it's going to take that type of effort to get there. Is it just a matter of time that we are going to embrace something like what Bernie Sanders is saying-- Medicare for all or a single payer system? What do you think of that? Is that we're headed? Susie, it's hard for me to see that. And you know, I think that the role of the private sector and the role of private sector competition and innovation I think is a hallmark of our country. I would be very concerned. And I do believe that there is a reality that, you know, the government values and recognizes the role that the private sector plays. I think in a single payer system that's defined by the government defining not just its requirements but managing health care, you know, I don't believe would be good for our society or good for the country. So as a CEO of a health care company, what would you like to see at the end of the day in terms of the future of the American health care system? We're beginning to introduce what I'll refer to as more consumerism in health care. And I think that concept is very new for Americans. And I think our first priority, you know, is we've got to close that educational gap that exists around-- I'll call it-- health care IQ or health care literacy and provide consumers the tools so that they can make informed decisions. Because we're pushing the accountability there. But you know, the education and the tools to make you know those educated decisions-- we're not in sync yet. Well, it's a whole new vocabulary in health care for the consumer to understand. How long is it going to take for them to learn that vocabulary and then learn to advocate for themselves to get this consumerism? And then will that really reduce costs? Susie, I do believe it will reduce costs. And you know, I think that there's a lot today that I believe as the consumer understands it better, they're going to demand it. They're going to demand the things that they don't realize that they need yet. And I think we're working hard to begin to bring that to them and to help close those gaps. So Larry, looking ahead to next year at this time, what will we be saying about the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare? Is it going to be a whole new plan? Is it going to be the same thing or just some variation on a theme? I don't think we'll lose the framework that exists. Maybe we'll call it something else. But you know, I do believe that some of the challenges that are in front of us will be addressed as we sit here 12 months from now.