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Despite resistance from the medical community, CVS Health's acquisition of health insurer Aetna has been given final approval by a federal judge. 

Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia had been examining a government plan announced in October to determine whether the proposed $69 billion acquisition is “in the public interest,” requesting quarterly reports from the combined company, and evaluated complaints the deal would harm consumers, ultimately signing off on a settlement agreement CVS had negotiated with the U.S. Justice Department, on the condition that Aetna sell its Medicare prescription drug plan business to WellCare Health Plans Inc., according to multiple news reports. 

“CVS Health and Aetna have been one company since November 2018, and today’s action by the district court makes that 100 percent clear,” CVS said in a statement. “We remain focused on transforming the consumer healthcare experience in America.”

The American Medical Association testified before Judge Leon against the merger, and AMA President Dr. Patrice Harris released a statement regarding the approval:

“Despite an unprecedented review that dragged many details of this merger into the light, today’s decision ultimately fails patients, will likely raise prices, lower quality, reduce choice, and stifle innovation. The American people and our health system will not be served well by allowing a merger that combines health insurance giant Aetna Inc. with CVS Health Corporation — the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain, specialty pharmacy, pharmacy benefit management (PBM) and Medicare Part D Stand-Alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) insurer.

The deal is being considered a landmark in healthcare, with CVS operating over 1,000 retail MinuteClinics and one of the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit management companies joining the nation’s third-largest health insurer with more than 22 million health plan subscribers.

Additionally, CVS has said its new health hub concept store will roll out to four U.S. metro areas and 50 locations by the end of this year, and 1,500 locations by the end of 2021, or about 500 HealthHubs a year.

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