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CVS pledges $100 million for community health programs

CVS Health will spend $100 million over the next five years to support community health programs following its roughly $70 billion acquisition of health insurer Aetna.

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The initiative, dubbed “Building Healthier Communities,” seeks to improve access to affordable health care, manage health challenges like chronic conditions and opioids and partner with communities. The bulk of the funding will come from the CVS Health Foundation and Aetna Foundation, with the rest coming from the company, a CVS spokesman told CNBC.

As part of its commitment, CVS plans to expand its Project Health program that offers free health and wellness screenings and will use these visits to identify social determinants of health, non-medical aspects of patients’ lives such as their housing or education that can affect their health. The company will also invest in ways to manage chronic disease, including diabetes and heart disease, and organizations focused on addiction treatment and the opioid crisis.

The funds will also help support communities that address social determinants of health in a continuation of the Aetna Foundation’s Healthiest Communities, which together with U.S. News & World Report ranked nearly 3,000 communities nationwide.

CVS has positioned its acquisition of Aetna around its commitment to finding ways to lower health-care costs, which have ballooned to 18 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. The combined company aims to use CVS’ walk-in clinics to steer people away from unnecessary and expensive doctor’s visits and into CVS’ MinuteClinics to help manage chronic conditions or avoid hospital readmission.

“I believe we are experiencing this kind of inflection point with health care – facing an opportunity to fundamentally transform the way the system works, making it better for consumers and building much healthier communities,” CVS CEO Larry Merlo said Monday at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., according to a transcript of prepared remarks.