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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 12:49 pm

Never. The insurance they offer their own employees is nothing to brag about.

January 29, 2013 at 12:32 pm

It's probably "Made in China" and will break soon after you buy it. Haha!
Why can't people realize that Walmart goes about their business in the most efficient way possible. It is a good thing to work hard and give the customer the best deal "for the customer". Not the best deal for these self centered whiners who are constantly making up all kinds of bad and condescending comments that the marketplace proves are totally bogus. They always post these negative comments that hold hard working frugal realistic people and companies in contempt. I for one am sick of them and the damage they are doing to the future of this country. They are just flat out wrong thinking misguided fools and we need to speak up about their comments. The people at Walmart built that business and it succeeds because they work and because they meet customer needs.

Lydia Sherman
January 29, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Yes I would buy it. I've used their stores since 1983 and it has helped me financially all these years by having low cost items that look good (Better Homes and Gardens brands). Also Walmart knows more about finances than politicians do.

GI Joe
January 29, 2013 at 12:08 pm

It's probably "Made in China" and will break soon after you buy it. Haha!

January 29, 2013 at 11:41 am

I would very willingly buy health insurance from Walmart !!

January 29, 2013 at 10:42 am

Health Insurance companies have only raised the price of healthcare. The Health care act has only two decent aspects to it- pre existing conditions cannot be excluded and students can stay on their parents insurance until they finish college. I would like to see more primary care clinics around for simple injuries and illnesses and most pharmacies would be able to handle this. This would definitely affect emergency room operations and costs. Wal-Mart getting into health insurance would definitely make United Health Care and the other companies cringe. But with everything going overseas, I don't want that.

tom truth
January 29, 2013 at 10:34 am

First, our health care system has an unnecessary middleman that makes our health insurance cost Americans double what other modern countries are paying. The middleman is health insurance. We need to move to a single payer system in which we get our health care DIRECTLY from hospitals and clinics--where those with medical degrees make medical decisions--NOT accounting majors!

January 29, 2013 at 10:31 am

this would be a bad idea.

Sav Dave
January 29, 2013 at 9:27 am

I agree with Jean &Bob.
with all other usa bussiness going over seas, now they want to send our health and life ins. too. I wonder now if my ins. is already over there. I know that my bank statements .and other things are but the people you have these things with are not going to tell you. you find this out when someone answer the
phone and you ask them where they are and they say over seas.
come on america help us out , keep our worr at home .

January 29, 2013 at 8:56 am

I dont usually respond to these..but having recently watched a program on how much profit Walmart makes and doesnt even give decent wages to there employees..My answer is no way would I purchase this from them. I totally agree with Bob on the first comment. I cant even find a set of silverware or a clock made in the USA in Walmart among other things. Again after watching that program and the representative being interviewed was avoiding answering the questions I have no respect for them. Really a family of four and your paying him $12.oo and hour...How about Walmart offer it FREE INSURANCE to US Citizens and use those billion dollar profits to pay for it.