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CVS highlights cost-quality-access dilemma

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Some consumers are making trade-offs as they try to solve the cost-quality-access equation for health care, according to CVS Health.

This week, CVS posted some key findings from a poll of 2,000 registered voters that it conducted last month. Probably the most brow-raising concerns the hard choices that consumers are making. In CVS’ survey, 28% of respondents have postponed needed medical care and 21% have delayed filling a prescription because of cost.

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CVS Health’s Larry Merlo

Still, CVS noted, consumers are giving quality more weight as they determine where to get care, and to that end many are doing their own research.

Of those polled, 52% cited quality of care as the top factor when seeking a health care provider. The next most-important consideration for selecting a provider was trusted advice, cited by 17% of respondents.

Meanwhile, 29% said they “always” or “sometimes” shop around for health care providers and services. Sixty-seven percent of these respondents indicated that they regularly or sometimes choose care based on their research.

CVS points to its integrated business model — combining a retail drug chain, walk-in medical clinic operation and PBM — as an example of how the nation’s health care system is evolving to meet the priorities of patients, providers and payors: broader access to high-quality, affordable care.

On Thursday, CVS Health president and CEO Larry Merlo gave his take on the factors behind today’s health care marketplace in a keynote address at the Executives Club of Chicago Global Leaders Series event.

“We are all patients at some point in our lives. We all want care that is more affordable, accessible, and effective,” Merlo said at the event.

The U.S. health care arena faces both economic and structural challenges, he explained. “It’s as if we have two health care systems operating side-by-side. The first is the system of yesterday, in which insufficient competition leads those who produce goods and services to produce more and charge more. The second is the system of tomorrow, in which consumers are empowered with more choices and more information to improve quality and drive down costs.”

Within 10 years, $1 out of every $5 spent in the United States will go toward health care if current trends continue, according to Merlo. However, health care stakeholders are re-examining ways to surmount the obstacles around cost, quality and access. “Virtually everywhere you look in health care today, you see innovative approaches resulting from market competition,” he said.

Key considerations going forward, Merlo said, include improvements to the Affordable Care Act, government-funded comparative research on the effectiveness of care and increased competition to rein in prescription drug costs.

“Health care spending is increasing too rapidly, and reducing it must be a national priority, not just inside the Beltway in Washington, D.C., or in our state capitals,” Merlo noted. “Let’s complete the transformation of American health care. Let’s create a system that works for everyone and is sustainable for generations to come.”


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