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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 28, 2013 at 8:58 pm

I'd say, YOU GO WALMART! Just DO IT! The insurance Industry can either shape up or ship out..

January 28, 2013 at 8:55 pm

I'd say, YOU GO WALMART! Just DO IT!

January 28, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Wal mart would revolutionize the industry!!!!

Just the thing it needs. just look at the prescription benefits.

Go wal mart, and pleeeese buy Rite Aide

January 28, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Walmart has not stepped up to the plate to provide adequate health insurance coverage for there own employees. They are the wealthiest corporation providing the lowest wages and the worst health insurance policies available. But they are willing to provide and sell there customers health insurance. Double standards. I wouldn't buy it, I wouldn't try it.

January 28, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Thats rather interesting considering they wont even let their own workers work full-time to get benefits. Instead thay give them directions on how to apply for food stamps and medicaid...

Mom 0f 2
January 28, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Wait I dont shop at Walmart, however wasn't it Walmart who didn't want to pay their employees benes.?? Just sayin'.....

January 25, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Hey Steve, maybe Wal-Mart will start it's own literacy department to teach simple spelling. Anyway healthcare can be packaged to work very well. If you are in a rural area with the old fashioned country doctor, very well. Most clinics will have specialists on site and will be available much sooner than a referral from an out of network doctor. I am on Medicare and have my primary care doctor, a lab, an images practice, some of the more common specialists and a pharmacy, all on site. After I go to the doctor I go home, not to bunch of others places. It is pretty efficient, so maybe give it a try and Don't Worry Be Happy!!!!!!!!!! peace always 8>)

January 25, 2013 at 9:17 pm


January 25, 2013 at 9:10 pm

If you don't like Wal*Mart, don't shop there. No one forces you to buy anything. There are some who appreciate the better prices on some things at Wal*Mart and Sams. In our capitalistic society it is imperative that we shop smartly, while we still have that right. Please don't condemn anyone who wishes to shop at Wal*Mart or Sams. Save your judgment for important stuff.

January 25, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I hope Walmart males Billions of dollars selling healthcare,perhaps this is what the Health Care Industry needs more competition !!