Aetna bringing CVS-centric plan to new markets with eye on further expansion

Aetna first unveiled its Connected Plan last year, and now it's bringing the design to new markets with its sights on even further expansion.

The Aetna Connected Plan with CVS Health centers the capabilities of the insurer's parent company, including its retail pharmacies, MinuteClinics and HealthHUB stores. After launching in the Kansas City market, the plan is now coming to Southern California and St. Louis.

Aetna is aiming to offer the plan in 15 markets by the end of the year, Kristen Miranda, senior vice president of markets at Aetna, told Fierce Healthcare. She said the initial response to the plan in its early markets is making the case for further growth.

"It is our plan to really get this out to market fairly quickly," Miranda said.

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The plans use Aetna's HMO performance provider network and offer perks for using CVS services, such as 20% off select CVS-branded health and wellness products. Connected Plan members also have access to free one- to two-day delivery for eligible prescriptions and retail items from CVS as well as $0 copayments at walk-in clinics, including MinuteClinic.

The plan premiums are also notably lower than more standard Aetna plans, Miranda said, typically by between 23% to 30%.

Miranda said that when Aetna was acquired by CVS Health in 2018, one of the goals of the combination was to harness the strengths of both companies to drive a more consumer-centric, high-value healthcare experience for patients.

This plan design, she said, is one way the companies are aiming to achieve that goal.

"This is really, in my mind, the realization of the two companies coming together and what we think we can deliver over time," Miranda said.

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As Aetna eyes further expansion for its Connected Plan, Miranda said the insurer is looking to markets where there is already comfort with high-performance networks and where plan members are already willing to take a consumer role in their own healthcare.

Southern California, for example, fits the bill there, and is also a highly competitive market that doesn't have the same level of provider consolidation as the northern part of the state, making it an ideal place to offer the Connected Plan, she said.

Aetna is also currently targeting smaller employers with this plan design—companies of between 101 and 300 employees. But, Miranda said, the insurer may bring it to bigger accounts if the expected results come to bear.

"I think we’ve got to start where we’re starting," she said. "If we do this right I think there is a market even for larger purchasers."