Walmart’s strategy is simple: Find ways to help customers save money and live better. That mission has served the megaretailer well in selling consumers everything from home electronics to food. With its ever-expanding reach into health care, however, Walmart has entered a new phase in an effort to forge stronger bonds with millions of consumers.
The company recently became a licensed health insurance broker. It’s now collaborating with national and regional insurance carriers like Amerigroup, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Centene, Clover Health, Humana, UnitedHealthcare and others to offer Medicare Advantage (MA) insurance plans and part D drug benefits.
Walmart Insurance Services also will help the soaring number of Medicare-eligible seniors enroll in plans at its Walmart Health locations and simplify what for many is a confusing process. [Prior to the move, the company had allowed MA brokers to use its stores to help seniors understand their products and search for coverage on-site.]
This latest offering could further cement its relationship with health care consumers as the retailer continues to disrupt the health care sector in an effort to reduce costs while improving outcomes and patient satisfaction.
Walmart is partnering with insurance startup Clover Health to offer MA plans in eight counties in Georgia. Structured as a preferred provider organization, the “LiveHealthy” plans will include Walmart Health centers as an option as well as 31 hospitals and more than 8,000 providers. Members can receive primary care, dental, hearing, X-ray and other services offered at Walmart Health centers across the state. Clover Health’s software also will integrate with Walmart Health’s providers to share data.
The LiveHealthy: Clover-Powered, Walmart-Enhanced products will offer $0 copays for a slew of services, including primary care visits, Tier 1 and Tier 2 drugs via mail order, preventive services, rides to medical appointments and more, as well as $400 per year in over-the-counter expenses at Walmart locations.
The news is also significant because it puts Walmart on the path to more equal footing with CVS Health, which owns Aetna, in the competition for health consumers in the retail sector. Aetna recently launched a new plan for employers centered around CVS HealthHUBs that includes incentives to shop and be treated at CVS clinics.
Walmart will face stiff competition in selling MA plans, but some analysts believe the company will present a long-term threat because of its relationships with many of the leading MA players and its long-standing, strong relationship with a large percentage of the nation’s seniors. Some also believe Walmart could take a lower commission than other brokers of MA plans, which could contribute to broader pricing pressure on existing brokers, a Healthcare Dive report notes.
3 Takeaways from the Walmart Insurance Services Launch
- Startups could suffer: Walmart’s plans could hurt insurance startups like Bright Health and Devoted Health, notes a Business Insider report. While these smaller tech-focused insurers tout their greater efficiency and ability to offer affordable care, they may find tough sledding to compete with Walmart’s ability to consolidate many types of care into one visit.
- Expect expansion: Walmart expects to add more payers to the list of insurance products it offers customers as it further expands health care services. The company can be expected to develop more of a national presence in the health insurance market going forward.
- Consumer bonds will be strengthened: By offering health insurance plans, Walmart is also providing greater convenience and expanding its health care offerings to consumers, which may drive even greater loyalty and satisfaction. With more than 5,000 locations in the U.S. along with plans to operate 22 more Walmart Health centers by the end of 2021, the company has the infrastructure and reach to become a much larger force in the field.