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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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Sandor I. Nagy
January 28, 2013 at 10:02 pm

I am sure walmart is big enough to be able to compeate, profitably with anyone, simly due to the fact is has the valume it requires these days, to be successful on the long run. The doctors would possibly be better off with a Walmart umbrella. You can already see that the smaller doctor offices are closing up or not taking new patiets. All products in the Walmart stores available in various prices and of cource, qualities. Health care is much the same, get good doctors and nursing staff. Mind you the salaries may not going to be huge, but I am sure, the doctors will not going to give away their knollege for free.

January 28, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Everyone loves to hate Walmart, but unlike the government they are efficient and always drive to cut costs.

January 28, 2013 at 9:48 pm


January 28, 2013 at 9:43 pm

No way. Walmart is so cheap.....They need to take care of their employees w/ health insurance. I don't buy from a place that is heartless towards their employees. Employees need health insurance and decent wages from this Greedy Corporation.

January 28, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Yes I would

January 28, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Yes, I would absolutely buy my health insurance from Wal-Mart. I would know that my insurance is backed by one of the most successful and solid companies in the world. Furthermore, their new clinics that they have in their stores are great. I no longer go to my private physician, as I prefer their clinics. The service is convenient, the care is on par with my previous doctor, and the cost is 50% less. Wal-Mart rocks!

January 28, 2013 at 9:33 pm

I would not .The insurance policy would probable have more exclusions than coverage, written in Chinese,medicine would be full of chemical and they would suggest the policy holder start treatments with acupuncture before coverage is afforded .

joan steinhall
January 28, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Hell, no-they're rich enough and they would more than likely rip you off.

Thump Clift
January 28, 2013 at 9:31 pm

NO , Never ! Nearly everything in a Walmarts store is made OUTSIDE the USA. I clearly recall the founder of Walmart ( Sam ) being so proud to advertise "Made in the USA". He would roll over in his grave if he was aware of what is being sold in his store today. How many jobs have been lost in this Country because of this type of outsourceing ? Walmart's is un American ! Obviously profitable to the CEO, but still NOT American .

deloris mead
January 28, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Yes I would buy my insurance from Walmart. I do most my shopping
at Walmart. I also worked there one Christmas season. It was a
good experience.