Wednesday, June 13, 2007

CVS/Caremark Loses a Big One

Sometimes history doesn’t repeat itself.

When the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association awarded the lucrative Federal Employee Program pharmacy benefit management services contract June 6, it made a surprising decision: splitting the contract into two parts, one to manage the retail pharmacy side of the network, and the other to provide mail service to the almost 4 million federal government employees, retirees and dependents covered by the BCBSA plan.

They let CVS Caremark keep the retail. But they gave the mail service back to Medco Health Solutions Inc. That is the arrangement that BCBSA had for most of the 1990s, until it decided three years ago to give Caremark the whole enchilada.

CVS Caremark says it is happy it will continue to provide retail services. Medco says it is happy to be back as the mail order provider. So everybody’s happy, right?

Hardly. The decision by BCBSA to split the contract again surprised most PBM analysts on Wall Street—and it definitely disappointed investors in CVS Caremark.

It also marks an ominous beginning for the newly merged CVS Caremark business. The big question surrounding the company is whether the marketplace will accept Caremark’s new status as a division of the retail chain giant CVS. (There is much more on the implications of the CVS/Caremark deal in the January issue of The RPM Report.)

And that’s where the historical parallels come in. The last time Caremark was involved in a big merger, it was the acquirer, buying the PBM Advance PCS. At the time of the deal, Caremark said it expected the acquisition would boost its bid for the FEP mail order business—and the company was awarded the contract soon after the deal closed.

There was another factor that may have played a role in that decision three years ago: Medco had just settled a Department of Justice investigation into its mail order pharmacy practices, which included claims that the company had falsified some of its reports to BCBSA under the Federal Employees Program.

It sure is nice of BCBSA to let bygones be bygones. But it is also a clear indication that the stand-alone PBM giants (all two of them, including Express Scripts Inc.) still have life left in them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My husband and I, have BCBS FEP and could not be happier with the governments decision to split the pie. We grew up with the idea that you should NEVER put all you eggs in one basket!

My parents also have BCBS FEP and preferred MEDCO over CAREMARK with the mail order service.