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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 29, 2013 at 8:12 am

Keep sending your money to china, I'm sure they'll figure out how to also get the insurace from them. They don't care for their employees, why would they care about the consumer. Just another ploy to line their pockets.

January 29, 2013 at 7:58 am

Not on your life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

January 29, 2013 at 7:38 am

If its cheap enough and saves me money and the doctors and hospitals accept it. Sure, why not. Just a shame we all can't get on medicade since most people working pay for it anyway.

Joyce Ervin
January 29, 2013 at 6:37 am

Walmart can't even supply their employees with decent insurance, does anyone believe they will do any better for the public in general?

Bill Carter
January 29, 2013 at 1:19 am

wal-mart made it's huge start with NO foreign items in their stores. Now it's hard to find anything made in American in tbeir stores. There is no way they could even give me free insurance whose home company would be China based. No thanks. If the economy wouldn't be getting worse, with many thanks to BHO, more people would shop better quality stores.

January 28, 2013 at 11:11 pm

This another Walmart scam to pad their pockets,now they have
jumped in bed with big insurance,me,I wouldn't by a pair of
shoe strings from walmarts,like one poster stated they won't
even provide good health insurance for the employees of that

January 28, 2013 at 10:41 pm

As to walmart's announcement to bring more made in USA products in the stores, it is just whitewash to detract from all of the negative publicity from their off-shore interests. If you pay attention, everytime walmart gets negative publicity, they cover it up with an announcement that they will do something good for its customers, give me a break.

January 28, 2013 at 10:37 pm

I would not participate. Walmart already has sub-standard products and I would not take a chance on sub-standard health care. The Walton family is the richest family in the world, why would they want more? It is all about money, they do not care about low quality shoddy merchandise so why should they care about your health. Wake up America, look at Walmart's shady dealings in other countries, their sweat shops and the way they treat their employees.

Rebecca Williams
January 28, 2013 at 10:36 pm

I would buy if it was a better option than offered by my employer. I buy most of my groceries and everyday items there already. Some of the items they sell may be made outside of the US, but look at how many people they employee in their stores.

January 28, 2013 at 10:25 pm

wal-mart is taking the out of usa made items and replacing them with made in the usa items going 50 BILLION dollars worth