The Beginning of Wal-Care?
Wal-Mart was big news last year, when they instituted their generic prescription program offering $4 – $9 medications to their shoppers. Now they’re upping the ante with their announcement that they plan to open 400 health clinics nationwide over the next two years. The Bentonville, AR – based discounter is forming relationships with health systems and hospitals in Atlanta, GA, Dallas, TX, and Little Rock, AR, with the first clinic expected to open in April.
In an announcement to the press, Dr. John Agwunobi, president of Wal-Mart’s health and wellness division, said, “We are confident that our new model of partnership with hospital systems will provide access to quality health care services for folks who don’t want to wait in a busy emergency room or can’t get in to see their physician.”
The Wal-Mart health clinics, which will likely be managed by Texas-based RediClinic, will be equipped for non-emergent minor conditions, including sinus and bladder infections, earaches, and sore throats. They will also provide standard medical tests, vaccinations, health screenings and basic physical exams, and will prescribe medication when necessary. Licensed physicians and nurses will staff the clinics, which will be open seven days a week.
When Wal-Mart piloted their health clinic program, they discovered that roughly 55% of the patients who used them were uninsured.
While Wal-Mart itself has been criticized for not providing insurance benefits to enough of their employees, the company is now reporting that as of 2007, 93% of their associates had some kind of health insurance, with about half of them having the Wal-Mart health plan. The rest are insured either through a spouse’s benefit plan, or via Medicare, Medicaid, or military insurance.
The in-store clinics will accept all of the above, as well as from carriers such as Aetna, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and Humana.