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Consumer-directed healthcare model struts its stuff

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Anyone wondering what the future of health care under a more consumer-directed model will look like got a glimpse of it from two pieces of news this week.

(THE NEWS: Sam’s Club celebrates men’s health with free screenings. For the full story, click here)

(THE NEWS: MinuteClinic offers free diabetes monitoring package. For the full story, click here)

An estimated 1-in-6 men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetimes. Because of this, the free men’s health screenings that Unilever is sponsoring over the weekend at Sam’s Club stores, provided by Carmen Ingle & Associates, indicate of just how much potential retailers have to address even some of the most serious health crises.

A nurse practitioner doesn’t have the education or specialization of an oncologist, and while Sam’s Club doesn’t have clinics, it shows that retailers can offer some of the same services as physician offices and thus reduce the burden on them, all the while doing so at a lower price. That, in turn, can help lower the burden on people buying their own health insurance and payers, as well as the employers — including many of the small business owners who are Sam’s Club members — that will be required to buy medical insurance for their employees under the healthcare-reform law.

In addition to Sam’s Club, CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic locations will offer a package of diabetes management services this summer. With diabetes — mostly Type 2 — affecting nearly 26 million Americans, retailers are in an ideal position to do a lot to help mitigate the epidemic.

Regardless of the amount of money healthcare reform saves the system overall, these kinds of services offer another dimension of savings by providing low-cost, walk-in care, especially now that the model is changing to expand from acute care to detection and management of chronic disease states.

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CVS won’t be selling off PBM after scoring big win

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Why is the news that CVS Caremark has secured the mail-order and specialty prescription drug benefit for Federal Employee Program so important? Well, some pundits might say there is no indication that the integrated retail-pharmacy benefit manager model had anything to do with why FEP chose Caremark over Medco. It doesn’t matter. As any football coach would say, "A win’s a win," and this is a big one.

(THE NEWS: CVS Caremark lands PBM contract with FEP. For the full story, click here)

Starting January 2012, CVS Caremark will handle the $3 billion mail-order and specialty prescription drug benefit for the FEP, which previously was handled by rival Medco Health Solutions for the last three years.

As the news rang out throughout the industry, several observers agreed that it was a big win for CVS Caremark. Adam Fein, founder and president of Pembroke Consulting, said it reinforced his "view that Per Lofberg is leading a successful rejuvenation of Caremark’s PBM business."

Citi Investment Research analyst Deborah Weinswig not only raised her price target on shares of CVS Caremark but also stated that CVS Caremark has made major improvements in customer service since it last had the mail-order contract, and those improvements were "a major factor" in the win and could help Caremark gain more contracts after disappointing results in 2010 and 2011.

Meanwhile, it was reported that Newton Juhng, an analyst at FBR Capital, lowered the 2012 EPS estimate for Medco Health Solutions by 33 cents to $4.72 and its revenue estimate by $3 billion to $70.1 billion. Juhng said he held Medco Health Solutions shares as his Top Pick for more than eight months but, with the loss of the FEP contract to CVS Caremark, it would be a considerable challenge for Medco to make up the $3 billion of annual revenue and 9.8 million annual mail-order prescriptions.

Clearly, this is a major win for CVS Caremark, and that should, or could, cool down calls for CVS to sell or spin off Caremark.

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Walmart to repurchase $15 billion shares

BY DSN STAFF

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart’s board of directors has approved a new program authorizing the company to repurchase $15 billion of its shares, the company announced at its 41st annual meeting of shareholders Friday.

This program replaces the previous $15 billion program, announced on June 4, 2010, that had approximately $2 billion of remaining authorization. Under the program, repurchased shares are retired constructively and returned to unissued status.

“Our purchase of almost $13 billion of Walmart stock since last June is indicative of our strong free cash flow position,” Walmart EVP and CFO Charles Holley said. “We are pleased to continue our share repurchase program with this new $15 billion authorization.”

Through June 2, under the 2010 authorization, the company had spent more than $12.9 billion to repurchase more than 244 million shares. In addition to share repurchase, the company continues to return value to shareholders through dividends. Walmart increased the current fiscal year dividend per share by approximately 21% to $1.46, from $1.21 in fiscal 2011. During the first quarter of this year, the company distributed $1.3 billion in dividends.

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