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A Walmart-Humana deal targets pharmacy customers. Photos: Diego Herculano / NurPhoto and iStock via Getty Images

Walmart's potential buyout of Humana could be one of the most consequential deals in the feverish turf war of health care mergers, because it targets the spending power of the aging population.

The big picture: If a Walmart-Humana deal comes to fruition, which is still a big "if," Walmart would catapult from being the most recognizable American retailer into an even bigger corporate powerhouse with a tight grip on billions of federal health care dollars.

The details: Walmart could buy Humana, the Wall Street Journal reported, or the two companies could expand their current relationship.

Walmart and Humana already have a co-branded Medicare Part D plan, which covers prescription costs for people in the traditional Medicare program. More than 5.3 million people have a Humana drug plan, and membership has been growing like crazy as more Walmart shoppers sign up, the company said in its annual filing.

The impact: Many more major health care services would fall under Walmart and Humana's combined roof, including:

  • 3.5 million seniors and disabled people with private Humana Medicare Advantage plans.
  • Humana's pharmacy benefit manager, the fourth-largest in the country by filled prescriptions.
  • Home health services, thanks to Humana's pending acquisition of Kindred Healthcare.
  • Humana's Conviva health clinics.
  • 4,400 Walmart pharmacies.
  • PillPack would add more mail-order prescriptions if Walmart follows through on that rumored acquisition.

The bottom line: Seniors and low-income shoppers already are Walmart's core demographics. With Humana, Walmart could easily snag a piece of their their health care spending (which is heavily subsidized by taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid), and boost food and retail sales in the process.

Keep in mind: Some of the most valuable retail customers are the people who pick up prescriptions.

  • Pharmacy customers spend almost four times more than people who only shop for groceries, according to investor documents posted by Albertsons, which is acquiring Rite Aid pharmacies.
  • Pharmacy customers visit a store 2.3 times per week compared with less than once a week for regular shoppers.
  • A Walmart-Humana deal would "preserve the pharmacy volume (and subsequent incremental spend inside the store)," according to financial analysts with Barclays.

Looking ahead: The two other major mega-mergers, CVS-Aetna and Cigna-Express Scripts, similarly consolidate the prescription drug market.

Go deeper

Diamonds see demand spike and prices follow

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Diamond prices are up because demand is growing — despite the country's recent emergence from various forms of lockdown.

Why it matters: Diamonds were a big pandemic-era winner, when U.S. spending flowed out of service, travel and experiences into goods and high-end products.

Blockbuster Supreme Court day

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Supreme Court will give conservatives a lot of what they want — but not quite everything.

Driving the news: It voted 9-0 to carve out religious objections to same-sex marriage, saying foster-care agencies have a First Amendment right to turn away same-sex couples. But it also voted 7-2 to preserve the Affordable Care Act, saying Republican attorneys general did not have the legal standing to bring their lawsuit.

Biden signs bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

President Biden and Vice President Harris with members of Congress after the signing in the White House on June 17. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

"Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments," President Biden said before signing legislation Thursday that establishes Juneteenth as a federal holiday, just two days before the occasion.

Why it matters: The holiday, which will be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day, is now the 11th annual federal holiday and the first one established since the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.