The retail team contacted its new colleagues at health insurer Aetna, which merged with CVS in a $70 billion acquisition. Aetna was already in talks with SmileDirectClub and will start covering the aligners this summer for more than its 10 million Aetna Dental members. UnitedHealthcare will also start covering SmileDirectClub’s services for its more than 1.5 million members with orthodontic coverage, the health insurer announced Thursday.
Under both arrangements, patients will be able to buy the clear teeth aligners for less than $1,000. Without insurance, SmileDirectClub charges $1,850 for a one-time payment, or $2,170 for a two-year payment plan. Traditional braces can cost upwards of $9,000.
“This is big for raising awareness, and it opens up new marketing opportunities,” SmileDirectClub co-founder Alex Fenkell said. “We got into this business to increase access to care.”
Partnering with CVS gives SmileDirectClub a chance to quickly scale. The company launched online roughly five years ago and has grown to nearly 250 stores today. With CVS, it will more than double its bricks-and-mortar footprint in the U.S.
The tie-up with CVS isn’t exclusive either, he added, meaning SmileDirectClub can still work with other drugstore chains. And it’s already doing so. The start-up opened four SmileShop locations in Walgreens stores earlier this month. But Fenkell said it’s “really to early to determine” how that will scale from here.
CVS will add SmileShop to its new health-focused health-focused concept stores, called HealthHUBs by the end of the year. The HealthHUBs are designed to help customers with chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma. Meantime, CVS will continue to search for other services to bring into stores, like optical, Hourican said.