CVS Health Corp, which owns Hartford-based health insurer Aetna, plans to eliminate 5,000 corporate job nationwide this year, as the pharmacy giant seeks to trim expenses and shift investments into health care delivery and technology that will drive its future growth.
The job cuts were disclosed in an internal employee memorandum late Monday. A CVS spokesman said there was no breakdown yet of the job cuts planned regionally, including for Hartford. The majority of CVS corporate jobs in Connecticut are in Hartford after CVS acquired Aetna in 2018.
CVS employs about 300,000 nationwide and the planned job cuts represent about 2% of the Rhode Island-based company’s overall workforce.
“Our industry is evolving to adapt to new consumer health needs and expectations,” CVS said, in a statement. “As part of an enterprise initiative to reprioritize our investments around care delivery and technology, we must take difficult steps to reduce expenses.”
“This unfortunately includes the need to eliminate a number of non-customer facing positions across the company,” the statement said.
“We do not expect there to be any impact to our customer-facing colleagues in our stores, pharmacies, clinics or customer services centers. We’re committed to supporting impacted colleagues, and they will receive severance pay and benefits, including access to outplacement services.”
A loss of jobs at Aetna’s massive headquarters in Hartford’s Asylum Hill would come at a time the city is struggling with coaxing workers back into the office. In the aftermath of the pandemic, major employers still have a large cross-section of their employees working at least part of the workweek at home.
It isn’t clear how many Aetna employees are coming to the office, but it is generally believed that majority are still working remotely. But long-term, workers in the city are seen as a key component feeding downtown’s ecosystem of restaurants, shops and entertainment venues, even as the city builds a residential base with new apartments.
David Griggs, chief executive of the MetroHartford Alliance, the region’s chamber of commerce, said Tuesday he hopes the highly-skilled Aetna workforce in Hartford will remain in place during the planned layoffs.
“At the end of it, we hope Hartford is spared any job cuts, but in the event there are, the MetroHartford Alliance would use that as a (a tool to attract) a new company,” Griggs said. “It all becomes messaging, right? How do we message the opportunity of these highly-skilled employees in Hartford and that they are available.”
How much CVS would save annually by cutting its workforce wasn’t clear Tuesday, but more details are expected Wednesday when CVS releases its annual earnings report.
CVS’ plans drew swift reaction Tuesday from some elected officials, concerned about the potential impact on thousands of CVS Health and Aetna employees in Connecticut.
“First and foremost, my thoughts are with the thousands of families that these layoffs will impact, and I am committed to doing whatever my office can do to help those workers recover,” U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-East Hartford, said, in a statement. “It is disappointing to see five years after the merger of CVS Health and Aetna, the company is making significant layoffs and it raises questions about the impact large corporate mergers are having on employees, shareholders, and the public.”
When CVS Health Corp. acquired health insurer Aetna Inc. in 2018, its agreement with state insurance regulators in Connecticut included a promise to keep employment at Aetna and its subsidiaries at 5,300 for at least four years after the deal closed. The employment levels reflected staffing as of Oct. 1, 2018.
The current employee levels in Hartford and Connecticut were not immediately available Tuesday.
CVS completed its acquisition of Aetna in November 2018. The majority of Aetna employees are located in Hartford, where CVS also agreed to keep Aetna’s headquarters for a decade and create a center of excellence for CVS’s insurance business.
In 2020, CVS cut what the company characterized as a “very small percentage” of jobs in Hartford, as it absorbed Aetna. At the time, CVS did not disclose specific numbers.
Ever since CVS acquired Aetna, there has been a nagging worry locally about the future of the massive, Colonial Revival Aetna campus, built in 1931, on Farmington Avenue.
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