In the same week that Walmart announced it would stop offering health insurance benefits to new part-time employees, the retailer sent out a request for information seeking partners to help it "dramatically ... lower the cost of health care ... by becoming the largest provider of primary health care services in the nation," says a Kaiser Health News article. The request asks firms to spell out their expertise in a wide variety of areas, including managing and monitoring patients with chronic, costly health conditions such as asthma, HIV, arthritis, depression, and sleep apnea.
In addition to positioning itself to boost store traffic by expanding the number and types of services offered in its in-store medical clinics, analysts say, the move also would capitalize on growing demand for primary care in 2014, when the federal health law fully kicks in and millions more Americans are expected to have government or private health insurance.
In-store medical clinics "could also be players in another effort in the health law" that encourages collaborations between providers who want to "win financial rewards for streamlining care and lowering costs." Paul Howard, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, told Kaiser that Accountable Care Organizations might contract with in-store medical clinics.
While Walmart's efforts to partner with others on health care could help lower costs for some patients and increase access to primary care services, health policy experts also say it raises questions about the possibility of further fragmenting care in the US. They also question whether patients seen by nurses or physician assistants at in-store clinics will have outcomes equal to those seen by physicians in more traditional practices.
Partners are to be selected in January, the article says.