Aetna considers sale of PBM unit

August 7, 2009

Like other health insurers before it, Aetna considers selling off its PBM unit.

Aetna reportedly is considering the sale of its PBM unit.

“Our practice is not to comment on rumors or speculation,” Walt Cherniak, Aetna spokesman tells Managed Healthcare Executive. “Aetna remains committed to our integrated value proposition and clinical integration of pharmacy benefits remains a core element of Aetna's strategy. We believe our integration strategy continues to differentiate us in the marketplace. We are always willing to explore options that could add value to our shareholders and customers.”

Selling a health insurer's PBM is a good short-term solution to raising cash and improving fiscal outcome for the year, according to Robert Taketomo, PharmD, president and CEO of Ventegra in Glendale, Calif. “However, it removes an important tool for managing healthcare cost from the arsenal of that health insurer, and may be indicative of the longer-term strategy and direction of that insurer,” Taketomo says.

“If an insurer is committed to offering viable health plans, then control over their own PBM is critical. If an insurer is transitioning into a role as third-party administrator, then owning a PBM is not as critical,” he continues.

WellPoint sold its PBM to Express Scripts back in April for $4.7 billion.