VillageMD, which is majority owned by Walgreens Boots Alliance, plans to shell out nearly $9 billion to pick up medical practice Summit Health, the parent company of urgent care clinic chain CityMD.
The deal, announced Monday morning, is valued at $8.9 billion and includes investments from Walgreens Boots Alliance and Cigna Corp's healthcare unit Evernorth, which will also become a minority owner in VillageMD. Bloomberg first reported on a potential deal back in late October.
The deal will expand Walgreen's reach into primary, specialty and urgent care. The transaction creates one of the largest independent provider groups in the U.S., the organizations said. Combined, VillageMD and Summit Health will operate more than 680 provider locations in 26 markets. The two companies will have 20,000 employees.
Walgreens said Monday it will invest $3.5 billion through an even mix of debt and equity to support the acquisition, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023. The company will remain the largest and consolidating shareholder of VillageMD with about 53% stake.
Walgreens also raised its fiscal year 2025 sales goal for its U.S. healthcare business to between $14.5 billion and $16 billion from $11 billion to $12 billion previously. That business segment is now expected to achieve positive adjusted EBITDA by the end of fiscal year 2023.
Last year, Walgreens invested $5.2 billion in VillageMD and said it planned to open at least 600 Village Medical at Walgreens primary-care practices across the country by 2025 and 1,000 by 2027.
The deal comes amid a frenzy of M&A activity in the past two years. Major retailers like CVS, Walgreens and Amazon are ramping up their focus on providing medical services to gain bigger footholds in the healthcare market.
Drugstore rival CVS Health won the bidding war for home health and technology services company Signify Health and plans to shell out $8 billion to acquire the company. Amazon also plans to buy primary care provider One Medical for $3.9 billion.
The M&A move signals that Walgreens wants to become a "dominant entity in the overall healthcare services ecosystem," according to David Larsen, healthcare IT and digital health analyst at financial services firm BTIG.
"Walgreens Boots Alliance is graduating up from being a drug retail store to owning the life-cycle of members' health," he wrote in an analyst's note. "We view this transaction as being a statement by the market that primary care continues to be one of the key drivers of healthcare long-term."
The deal also will put additional pressure on CVS Health to break into the primary care business "sooner rather than later," Larsen wrote.
"I think at the most strategic level, I think there continues to be recognition that an integrated, coordinated, connected model of care is one that will ultimately deliver the best results. You see this through Optum's acquisition of Kelsey-Seybold Clinic and VillageMD's acquisition of Summit Health," Tim Barry, CEO and chair of VillageMD, said in an interview with Fierce Healthcare.
"If we're going to ultimately stem the rising tide of this fee-for-service healthcare system, we need a better solution, and that solution needs to have doctors working with other doctors in a coordinated way and trying to solve the unique problems that these patients have and making sure that the right doctors are accessing the patient at the right time, and doing it all underneath the umbrella of a risk-based contract," Barry said.
He added, "We think that this is going to continue to be where healthcare goes. And, we have to do it in a way that is integrated and value-oriented. Any organization focused on doing that, and doing that at size and scale, is going to continue, I think, to be the successful winners of our healthcare system."
In 2019, Summit Medical Group, a physician-owned and governed multispecialty group, merged with CityMD, a leading urgent care company in New York City. The combined organization, Summit Health, has more than 370 locations in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Oregon.
VillageMD provides value-based primary care for patients at traditional free-standing practices, Village Medical at Walgreens practices, at home and via virtual visits. VillageMD and Village Medical have grown to 22 markets and are responsible for more than 1.6 million patients, according to the company.
Barry said the combination of VillageMD and Summit Health-CityMD will enable the organizations to scale up value-based care and build out integrated primary and specialty care services.
"If you look at the long history of Summit Health, it's an organization that has done some very innovative things. The way that they deliver multispecialty care, it is truly integrated, it's truly connected and they are known as the preeminent brand in their marketplace. They also have CityMD, which is one of the more unique and differentiated urgent care models out there in the market. They really are a best-of-breed organization," he said.
"When I look at what we've been able to do at VillageMD, we built this incredible model of value-based primary care delivery. The idea of bringing these two organizations together to bring those best-of-breed capabilities under one umbrella was just so compelling. We will soon be able to offer a more comprehensive, integrated and connected model by also offering other specialty services to our patients, but all still done through a value or risk-based reimbursement structure."
Barry is bullish on the combined capabilities of the two companies in the primary and specialty care markets.
"We'll be delivering a consistent value-based model of integrated, multispecialty care in a way that delivers the best clinical results on the planet," he said.
Jeff Alter, CEO of Summit Health-CityMD, said in a statement that the deal adds Summit Health's expertise and geographic coverage to VillageMD’s proven value-based primary care approach.
The acquisition also expands Walgreens' reach into providing medical care directly to patients. "This transaction accelerates growth opportunities through a strong market footprint and wide network of providers and patients across primary, specialty and urgent care," Roz Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, said in a statement.
With Cigna's investment, the combined company will be able to tap into Evernorth's health services capabilities to potentially lower healthcare costs, Barry said. Evernorth encompasses Cigna's health services businesses including pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts
"In order to be a risk-based provider or a value-based provider, you have to have contracts with a payer that allows you to work in this value or risk-based construct. We learned over the years that Cigna has been a really good partner to us on that journey," Barry said.
"There are companies that [Cigna] has purchased over the years that have different specializations and capabilities that we believe ultimately will allow us to deliver better care to our patients," he noted. "Evernorth has some capabilities tied to behavioral health, and they have some capabilities tied to the management of specialty pharmaceutical spend, which everyone knows those costs continue to be soaring. We both liked the idea of supporting an organization like ours that's going to continue to grow and continues to be focused on risk and value."
With the investment in VillageMD and Summit Health, Cigna gets a leg up in the primary care space as it looks to build out its Evernorth division.
“Our collaboration with VillageMD accelerates our efforts to improve the way care is accessed and delivered,” said Eric Palmer, CEO of Evernorth, in a statement. “Harnessing the breadth of Evernorth’s health services capabilities and connecting them with physicians who provide care in a value-based model like VillageMD, helps more people to get the right care at the right time—driving better health and value.”