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Health insurance from Wal-Mart?

By Jay MacDonald ·
Friday, January 25, 2013
Posted: 10 am ET

In news that lends an exciting new dimension to the phrase "clean up on aisle five," Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, reportedly has big plans to expand into one of America's top growth markets: health care and health insurance.

It's not such a stretch. As the Orlando Business Journal observed, Wal-Mart is already the fourth largest pharmacy in the nation, routinely administers on-site vaccinations and even sells health insurance through its big-box Sam's Club chain. In fact, health and wellness products and services accounted for 11 percent of Wal-Mart's sales and 5 percent of Sam's Club business in 2011, according to the company's annual report.

But now, apparently inspired by the state health exchanges scheduled to open in 2014 under health care reform, Wal-Mart has set its sights on establishing its own branded health insurance exchange aimed at small businesses looking for a big hand with their health care plans.

Private health exchanges are popping up with some frequency these days. Recently, the consulting firm Aon Hewitt announced plans to set up a health insurance exchange for employees at Sears and at Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster. A competing consulting firm, Mercer, also is building a health insurance exchange for employers.

One advantage a Wal-Mart health exchange would have over the new federal-state exchanges is traffic -- lots and lots of traffic. But the government health exchanges will offer something that Walmart cannot: a small-business tax credit to qualifying employers.

Nor does the retail giant plan to ignore the profits possible from in-store clinics. While Wal-Mart lags well behind corner-pharmacy brands CVS and Walgreens with just 150 clinics nationally, Kaiser Health News reported that the company planned a huge expansion of its clinics more than a year ago. The Orlando Business Journal reports that Wal-Mart plans to offer full primary care services at its clinics in the next five to seven years. Wal-Mart has denied both reports.

Then again, the retail giant plays things pretty close to the vest these days after its ambitious plans to expand its MoneyCenters into a full-blown banking enterprise ran afoul of federal regulators a few years back.

One thing is certain: With U.S. health care spending at a staggering $2.7 trillion annually, or nearly 18 percent of the U.S. economy, Wal-Mart won't be the last major company to explore ways to affix its brand to American health care.

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January 25, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Way to go Wal-mart... I'll be looking forward to use your low cost insurance services.

January 25, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Say good-bye to your family physician. He/she is going to be put out of business like all of the small mom and pop stores that have been a staple of WalMart's diet for years. Nobody really believes that WalMart will be selling great insurance, just that it will be cheap. That's all we really care about anyway, right?

January 25, 2013 at 8:20 pm

We will not hire full time so the tax payers can pay our employees. This is agenst the law and all American standerds. yes it is WELLFAIR FROUD becouse it is pland!!

January 25, 2013 at 7:03 pm

The irony of Walmart or any other "big box" store that barely pays minimum wage and that only because they have to and goes out of their way to make sure employees don't get full time hours so they don't have to give them any benefits getting into the health insurance business is not lost on me. I do not shop at Walmart, Sam's, etc. They are now trying to do some damage control but it's too late. buying health insurance from Walmart would kind of like having weight watchers meetings at McD's or any other fast food place.

phyllis holliday
January 25, 2013 at 6:50 pm

as i see it at this time in my life,wal/mart/ and sav/a/lot are such a big help.i do believe deep down in my "heart" one can really get some good bargains.

of course one must work at this.i do not eat a lot of meat,so i go to sav/a/lot for great veg/fruits..sams and wal/mart have the lowest gasoline prices in town.

so constantly wal/mart middle aisle is full of kids are grown,but if i were raising kids today,w/m would be my choice.s/a/lot has swell cottage cheese,hot dogs and the best romaine greens in town.stay with us w/m and s/a/lot. i love their oats.

January 25, 2013 at 6:18 pm

What the poop.

Moe Money
January 25, 2013 at 6:11 pm

The leader in skimping on costs, and a quasi-slave labor camp, can in no way be trusted with MY health care! I can't even buy rice from them without having my house fill up with meal moths! I can see it now, a part time $9 a hour 'nurse' will diagnose me with a tumor, and direct me to wait in the Chemo Line!

Joe Shmoe
January 25, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Isn't getting health care from Walmart like dumpster diving for organ replacements?

Judy Little
January 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm

They need to make more money

Florida Sun
January 25, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Interesting, Wal-Mart will sell you health insurance however they will not hire Full Time hourly workers in order to avoid providing health insurance to their employees.