There has been a lot of talk about Walmart’s incursion into healthcare, but their latest move seems to be the boldest yet.
In July, reports emerged that the retail giant had registered Walmart Insurance Services LLC. This was discovered in part due to job openings on the company’s website, with the corporation seeking insurance agents in the Dallas area and registering the insurance brand in Arkansas.
There has been no major announcement about this yet, but Walmart has confirmed its venture into healthcare with various media outlets and stated the insurance company is based in Delaware.
A Healthcare History
Walmart has made more than a few moves into the healthcare field prior to this. The company has Healthcare Begins Here, which enables customers to find a health plan that meets their needs. This is available during the open enrollment period for Medicare and helps consumers shop an assortment of plans from various payers like Humana and Aetna.
Walmart’s venture into the insurance business comes after 2018 rumors that the corporation was going to acquire Humana. That didn’t materialize, although Walmart did partner with Humana to offer COVID-19 testing at their Neighborhood Market outlets. Walmart has also worked with Anthem to extend a prescription drug plan.
And there are Walmart Health clinics, which provide services like annual checkups and even dental and vision services.
A Growing Marketplace
Walmart isn’t alone in the retail healthcare space, as CVS Health opened drive-through COVID-19 testing sites near store locations. Target, Kroger, and other major United States retailer are also exploring the field or already have coronavirus testing sites.
As Medicare and health insurance in general are in a lot of trouble money-wise, some observers are greeting the news of Walmart’s push with open arms. Their retail clinics can offer cost-lowering measures, claim payer organizations, and that can lead to a leveraging of care costs overall. If their insurance can offer comparable cost advantages, so much the better.
Benefits and Evolution
There are benefits across the board, at least in theory. Walmart’s overall reach as a consumer entity allows it to drive up volume for Medicare plans and it does seem like the next logical step given the company’s penchant for providing information about healthcare insurance.
In the age of coronavirus, the healthcare field has to evolve – and that means the insurance industry has to evolve. Medicare is facing extraordinary financial challenges as a result of COVID-19 and cost-cutting will be at a premium. Groups like America’s Health Insurance Plans or AHIP have recommended the leveraging of retail clinics and options to lower costs, but that’s just one potential course of action.
By innovating in the healthcare space and offering things like retail clinics, telemedicine, and non-physical care options, AHIP argues that competition can be preserved in the marketplace and consumers can have more choices in an age where big companies are fusing to produce monumental health entities.
In June, Walmart acquired the technology of CareZone. This allows users to scan prescription drug labels and insurance cards to determine vital pieces of information, plus it simplifies at-home drug delivery and links with medical teams to complete a more inclusive course. This venture in digital health should enhance any insurance offerings Walmart makes.
There’s no word on prices or details of particular plans offered by Walmart’s insurance company, but there is every clue the new plans will be Medicare plans. According to the job posting, Walmart has a “brand new opportunity to help millions of people find the best Medicare insurance available.”
Walmart could make major moves in the Medicare and health insurance marketplace in the forthcoming months and, for many, that’s good news. Having more decision-making possibilities creates a broader range of access points for customers and Walmart has a track record of providing value in the field.
The next step will depend on whether other companies enter the health insurance space after seeing Walmart test the waters. If retail giants like Walgreens and CVS try their hands in the arena, consumers could see a whole new world of Medicare and insurance prospects and a whole new range of plans and coverage for their dollar.