Aetna has 2.2 million Medicare drug members. Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images

Aetna announced Thursday that it will sell its Medicare prescription drug plan business to WellCare Health Plans. Financial terms were not disclosed, although Aetna said in a disclosure that the purchase price was not material.

Why it matters: This divestiture is dependent on antitrust officials signing off on CVS Health's takeover of Aetna — meaning CVS and Aetna believe this sale will resolve any antitrust concerns and foreshadows imminent federal approval.

By the numbers: Aetna has 2.2 million members in standalone Medicare Part D drug plans. A combined CVS-Aetna would have more than 8 million Medicare drug members, or close to one-third of the market based on the latest federal data. The Part D overlap has been viewed as an antitrust concern since the deal was first announced.

  • While Aetna's divestiture likely leads to federal approval, consumer advocates say they are still worried about whether CVS will impede competition with its health insurance and pharmacy benefits management under one roof, and whether CVS will force other insurers to drive business toward its own retail stores and pharmacies.

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Why it matters: Assuming one or more vaccines ultimately gain approval, there will be a period of months or even years in which supply lags far behind global demand. The COVAX initiative is an attempt to ensure doses go where they're most needed, rather than simply to countries that can produce or buy them at scale.

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