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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

The biggest health care deal in 2017 — CVS's proposed $69 billion acquisition of health insurer Aetna — shows how the industry is consolidating around the patient.

This trend is likely to continue in 2018, according to PwC's latest annual report on health issues. Organizations will take on new roles, getting closer to the consumer as the lines blur between insurers, pharmaceutical companies, retail clinics and pharmacy benefit managers. Here are three forces that will drive collaboration:

  • Drug spending: Now that pharmacy costs are one of the fastest-growing components of health care spending, purchasers are examining the intricate web of buyers and sellers. Intermediaries such as PBMs and wholesalers will be pressed to become more than just pass-throughs. Expect many to be acquired or form alliances.
  • Need for shared data. Merged data from the integration of medical and pharmaceutical treatments will improve population health. For instance, in states hit hardest by the opioid crisis, Aetna is using claims and pharmacy data to identify pregnant mothers and babies at risk for neonatal abstinence syndrome and babies born with opioid dependence.
  • Amazon's market entry. The online retail giant has acquired wholesale licenses in 12 states, a signal that will lead PBMs, retail pharmacy chains and health plans to work together to reduce costs and compete on price.

The bottom line: We all have a stake in the health care system. The winners will be the companies who prove the value of their collaboration by improving patient health.

Gurpreet Singh is a partner and U.S. health services leader at PwC.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

The latest: Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne identified the 400 Mawozo gang as the group responsible, in a statement to AP.

Hollywood union reaches deal with studios to avert strike

Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

A Hollywood workers' union reached a tentative deal with studios, networks and streamers that will guarantee better working conditions, meal breaks and increased wages for low-paid workers, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced Saturday night.

Why it matters: The deal, which still needs to be ratified by IATSE members, will avert a nationwide strike by film and television workers that was set to start Monday. It would have been the first strike in the union's 128-year history.

Bill Clinton released from hospital following treatment for non-COVID infection

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton was discharged from the University of California, Irvine Medical Center on Sunday, nearly a week after he was admitted for a non-COVID-related infection, according to his spokesperson Angel Ureña.

What they're saying: "His fever and white blood cell count are normalized and he will return home to New York to finish his course of antibiotics," wrote Dr. Alpesh Amin, who has been overseeing the team of doctors treating Clinton. "On behalf of everyone at UC Irvine Medical Center, we were honored to have treated him and will continue to monitor his progress."

Worth noting: Clinton had a urinary tract infection that spread to his bloodstream, per CNN.

  • The California-based medical team had been administering IV antibiotics and fluids, and was in constant communication with Clinton's New York team, including his cardiologist, according to the former president's physicians.
  • President Biden spoke by phone with Clinton on Friday to see how he was doing, and the catch-up included a discussion of recent politics.