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Lowering Costs and Increasing Access to Quality Care

July 27, 2017 | Health Equity

Cost concerns and gaps in access to care aren’t new challenges in health care, but they are among the most talked about. In his recent address to more than 30 state governors, CVS Health President and CEO Larry Merlo acknowledged that public companies and government organizations share a common interest in tackling rising health care costs and increasing quality of care, and suggested ways our company can partner with public and private stakeholders to control costs and improve outcomes.

Addressing the Affordability Challenge

Rising health care costs – especially drug prices – remain top of mind for consumers and health care payors, and for good reason. A recent study projects medical cost growth in the coming year to be 6.5 percent, which still outpaces inflation.PwC. Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers 2018. Accessed July 2017.

We know from our own data that Americans are concerned about the cost of prescription drugs, and some are even delaying medical care and filling prescriptions due to rising health care costs. In fact, in our most recent public opinion poll of approximately 2,000 registered voters:

  • 80 percent of respondents said affordability is very important when it comes to health care providers in their community.

  • More than one third of respondents noted that being able to afford prescription medications for themselves and their family members is a challenge.

Cost-savings Strategies Can Help

Across our enterprise, we use a variety of approaches to help keep costs in check.

  • CVS Caremark, our pharmacy benefit management business, employs multiple strategies to protect consumers from rising drug prices, including using competition to negotiate discounts, promoting the appropriate use of lower-cost, clinically equivalent medicines and developing innovative approaches to lower patients’ out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy.

  • MinuteClinic continues to serve as a lower cost, high-quality site of care that is helping to address the affordability challenge. In fact, retail health clinics like MinuteClinic cost 80 percent less than the ER, with the same or better outcomes.

Addressing Access

Lack of health care coverage, workforce shortages, health literacy and community resources all may present health care accessibility challenges.Rural Health Information Hub. Healthcare Access in Rural Communities. Accessed July 2017. Results from our recent poll show that access to health care remains top of mind for Americans:

  • 38 percent see access to care as the most important health care priority to address in their communities right now.

  • 62 percent of respondents report being in the pharmacy at least once a month.

Pharmacies are often one of the most locally accessible points of care. At CVS Pharmacy alone, we see 5 million Americans every day – making us the “front door” to health care. While first and foremost medication experts, pharmacists offer a broad range of health care expertise, which is why we advocate for empowering pharmacists to practice at the top of their license and provide more patient care. This not only helps increase access, it can also help improve medication adherence and disease management.

In addition, our more than 1,100 MinuteClinic locations offer high-quality, lower-cost care options in communities around the country, and have added new offerings to bring care closer to those who need it:

  • We broadened our acute (e.g., travel health assessments and plans, HPV vaccination) and chronic health services to meet patient demand.

  • We tailored our engagement to many diverse and underserved populations, including Spanish-language sign-in options at MinuteClinic.

  • As always, we continue to provide support to the approximately 50 percent of our patients who visit MinuteClinic and report not having a primary care provider (PCP), by helping them find a PCP.

For more information about our efforts to improve pharmacy care, visit our Thought Leadership information center. And to stay informed about the most talked-about topics in health care, register for content alerts and our bi-weekly health care newsletter.