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CVS Health-Aetna merger gets conditional DOJ approval

BY David Salazar

CVS Health has been given the Department of Justice’s approval for its proposed acquisition of health insurer Aetna — with one condition. The DOJ’s clearance came with the requirement that Aetna divest its standalone Medicare Part D prescription drug plans — a move that already has been announced, with WellCare Health Plans set to take over the plans, which have roughly 2.2 million members. Under the agreement with WellCare, Aetna will administrate and retain financial results from the plans through 2019.

“DOJ clearance is an important step toward bringing together the strengths and capabilities of our two companies to improve the consumer healthcare experience,” said CVS Health president and CEO Larry J. Merlo. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the DOJ that maintains the strategic benefits and value creation potential of our combination with Aetna. We are now working to complete the remaining state reviews.”

CVS Health noted that several state regulatory approvals have already been granted, and that the acquisition is now on track to close in the early part of the fourth quarter of 2018. Once the merger is complete, Aetna will operate as a standalone business within CVS Health’s enterprise, led by current members of its management team.

“CVS Health and Aetna have the opportunity to combine capabilities in technology, data and analytics to develop new ways to engage patients in their total health and wellness.” Merlo said. “Our focus will be at the local and community level, taking advantage of our thousands of locations and touchpoints throughout the country to intervene with consumers to help predict and prevent potential health problems before they occur. Together, we will help address the challenges our health care system is facing, and we’ll be able to offer better care and convenience at a lower cost for patients and payers.”

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Walgreens mobilizes ahead of Hurricane Michael

BY DSN STAFF

Walgreens on Tuesday announced that it was preparing its customers, employees and communities in the expected path of Hurricane Michael ahead of it making landfall, including plans to support areas impacted in the aftermath of the storm.

Walgreens said that it was emphasizing the importance of prescription preparedness for patients in areas that are expected to be impacted. With a state of emergency declared in parts of Florida, Walgreens said pharmacists can refill up to a 30-day supply of medication without refill authorization for any non-controlled substance. It also noted that patients should carry their medications in a waterproof bag, even if a bottle is empty, as label information can assist in a refill request.

Additionally, the company is staging mobile pharmacies near the region that it said it would deploy if necessary to damaged drug stores, as well as emergency power generators for areas that lose power.

“We urge our patients and customers to follow state of emergency directives and if necessary get to a safe location first and then refill medications at the nearest pharmacy. Walgreens will continue to support the health and wellness needs of our customers and communities facing this dangerous storm,” said Richard Ashworth, Walgreens president of operations. “We have a dedicated team in our Emergency Operations Center working to ensure our team members in the storm’s path remain safe and are preparing to rapidly restore operations in order to best serve our patients and communities.”

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Stop & Shop to improve shopper experience with store remodels

BY Marianne Wilson

Stop & Shop is updating its brand to make grocery shopping easier.

The grocer unveiled a fresh, new look at 21 remodeled stores in the Hartford, Conn. area. The update, a $70 million capital investment, is designed to improve the in-store experience with a focus on more fresh and healthy options and improved digital solutions.

The Hartford market will serve as a test market for Stop & Shop to pilot such features as an in-store smoker, poke bowl and taqueria stations, and frictionless checkout, which will be used to inform updates across the company’s 400-plus stores during the next several years. Stop & Shop said it is also investing heavily to lower prices on thousands of high-purchase items and extending its assortment of items from store brands.

The company currently employs over 3,000 people in the Hartford region. The remodeled stores are expected to increase headcount by 7%.

“We recognize that our customer is changing, and we’re evolving our entire shopping experience to better serve them,” said Stop & Shop president Mark McGowan, president, Stop & Shop, which is owned by Ahold Delhaize. “They’re focused on getting back to their lives, juggling many responsibilities and we want to make grocery shopping even easier and faster for them. Hartford is the first step in our journey towards repositioning our brand for future success and in helping our communities enjoy better food and better lives.”

Stop & Shop’s update includes a new logo and modernized store format that reflects a customer-centric approach and commitment to reshape its shopping experience around the customer and their evolving needs. While updates vary by store location, highlights of the refreshed stores include the following:

  • New in-store experiences – Customers can create their own olive oil and vinegar blends like fig-infused balsamic at DIY machines. They can also fill up growlers at a kombucha fountain, or find out what food pairs best with a hoppy IPA at an informational craft beer kiosk;
  • Community Tables – In-store cafes will feature “community tables” made from reclaimed wood so neighbors can gather together with family-style seating. Digital community boards will also share local fundraisers and other events around town;
  • Curbside Pickup – Customers can pull up beneath solar-powered canopies to pick-up their online Peapod orders, which will soon be assembled by a miniature robotic warehouse thanks to a new partnership with Takeoff Technologies;
  • Frictionless checkout – Customers can save time when shopping in-store by using the SCAN IT! mobile app, which provides a frictionless checkout experience, with no waiting in line;
  • Focus on local, fresh, and quality – Stores will feature more space dedicated to fresh produce and more locally grown and produced items;
  • Smoker – Customers can choose from meats like brisket, pulled pork and baby back ribs slow cooked up to 14 hours over solid hickory wood; and
  • Poke bowl & taqueria stations – New stations will make it easy to grab fresh, healthy meals with global flavors to-go.

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