health care

Walmart's Entry Into Health Care Could Be Hugely Disruptive in All the Best Ways

Perhaps the most radical aspect of the new Walmart Heath clinic? Consumers will know exactly what each service costs.

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Walmart is bringing its "everyday low prices" to the health care market—with an emphasis on "prices."

The big box retailer opened its first Walmart Health in-store clinic this month in Dallas, Georgia, offering primary medical, dental, vision, and mental health care. Though Walmart has not yet made public any plans for a national roll-out of similar facilities, the new clinic in the Atlanta suburbs appears to be a pilot for a new way to provide basic health care to Americans.

Perhaps the most radical aspect of the new Walmart Heath clinic? Consumers will know exactly what each service costs.

The company has published a pricing list showing that basic check-ups will cost $30 (or $20 for kids) while getting tested for the flu will cost $20 and having a routine vision exam will be $40. The clinic will be staffed with medical professionals capable of handling everything from immunizations to counseling sessions to lab testing to X-rays.

It's a big step forward for Walmart, which is already one of the country's largest pharmacies and which has opened smaller clinics in 19 stores to offer flu shots and other basic health care. Those smaller clinics average about 1,500 square feet each, while the new Walmart Health location in Georgia is over 10,000 square feet, according to Forbes.

It's another sign of how private-sector health care is innovating to reach Americans where they live and shop. CVS and Walgreens already offer small-scale clinics in some retail locations, and both have plans to expand those services in the coming years. If Walmart enters the health care provider marketplace too, it could be a huge victory for competition and convenience.

"Walmart Health is proof that the private sector can deliver high-quality, transparently priced health care services without government intervention," says Elise Amez-Droz, a health care policy associate at the Mercatus Center, a think tank based at George Mason University. "The best way to cater to our varying needs is to let patients have the final say in their health care decisions, shopping for better value and reaping the benefits in the form of better care and savings."

Access to care is an often overlooked part of the national debate over heath care, which tends to focus on providing insurance rather than health care itself. Insurance is important, of course, but the best insurance in the world is useless if there are no providers nearby.

As Amez-Droz notes, the federal government could give every American a voucher for the right to live in Manhattan, but that wouldn't change the fact that not every could move there (or would want to). Walmart and other retailers are helping to solve part of the access issue with these new clinics. About 90 percent of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a Walmart store.

The pricing model Walmart is rolling out could smash convention too. Though the retail chain says it will accept most major insurance plans—as it already does in its pharmacies and in existing, smaller clinics—the low, transparent prices will allow many customers to pay out-of-pocket for basic care.

That's a potentially huge change. The lack of transparency in health care prices—largely the result of third parties, like insurance companies, serving as intermediaries between consumer and provider—encourages the inflation of health care costs and the overconsumption of health care. Insurance may always be necessary to cover big expenses, but there's no good reason for Americans not to understand how much a simple visit to the doctor's office will cost before they arrive.

A single Walmart health clinic on the outskirts of Atlanta isn't going to fix any of the big problems with the American health care system. But you'd be foolish to think that the people running one of the world's most efficient and successful companies aren't going to come up with better solutions than the men and women trying to get elected.

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  1. Why are we discussing price for something that’s a human right?

    1. Because we’re all evil bastards who don’t think that every human need should be “free.”

    2. $30 checkups for adults and $20 checkups for kids because, as is obvious to any libertarian, healthcare should be meted out on a per lb. basis.

    3. Was healthcare a human right 500 years ago when it was more likely to kill you then help you? How about 200 years ago? When did it become a right?
      Healthcare is a service and a commodity, you can’t have healthcare as a “right” without forcing somebody to provide you with healthcare.

      1. If healthcare were a commodity, Obama wouldn’t have had to promise “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” That it’s NOT a commodity is one of the bigger thorns in the side of all the universal healthcare folks.

        Quality matters (and varies across a spectrum), customer service matters. Which make healthcare not an interchangeable service or good. This is one of the reasons it’s important to keep it as a market, so the consumers of health care can shop around for the care that they want at a price they find acceptable.

        1. I agree but that is why I said its a service and a commodity. The Doctors and the nurses offering the service and the drugs and medical devices being the commodity.

    4. “Why are we discussing price for something that’s a human right?”

      Even if one views it as a “right,” that does not make it “free.” And, again, if one views it as a “right,” shouldn’t we encourage practices that have the potential to keep costs down?

    5. “Why are we discussing price for something that’s a human right?”

      How much of my healthcare are you willing to pay for? What if I, like way too many other 50+ yr olds, do not invest hardly any personal effort and accountability in keeping myself healthy?

      What do you do for a living? Are you saying you would do it for free if somebody else subscribes to some lofty feelgood dogma about society’s right to get that service for free?

      1. You’re missing the sarcasm, it seems.

    6. Truth. I’d like a free assault rifle, please.

    7. Food is a human right, why isn’t my Jimmy John sub free?

    8. Owning a firearm is a right and arguably a human right to self defense, but I don’t think I can make the government buy one for me.

      Am I right – does anyone know of free gun program?

  2. The greeter will welcome you riding in an electric cart and weighing in at about 420 lbs.

    1. Assuming SJWs don’t living wage protest the entire chain into oblivion.

      First they came for the door greeters…

    2. They actually got rid of greeters about a year or so ago. Only high crime stores have them now and they are basically security. So no more old/crippled people.

      1. They promoted them to doctor.

        1. That’s the VA model.

        2. Is that better or worse than promoted to customer?

      2. Because stupid lefties probably demanded they get paid a ‘living wage’ even though stupid retard progs look down on Wall-Mart, don’t shop there and sneer at people who work there.

        But they do it because they care for the working class.

  3. Sounds interesting.

    But I suspect their biggest opponents aren’t going to be legislators, it’ll be doctors’ groups and associations.

    1. Ditto. The mutual aid societies of the 1800s used to hire doctors for their members with set prices for basic care. The AMA was disgusted at the idea of doctors working for such low wages and did their damnedest to decredential doctors who dared flout their diktat. I don’t doubt the modern AMA will try the same.

      1. What is the AMA? Only about 15% of doctors are members.

        1. The AMA writes the legislation that Congress rubber stamps.

        2. They’re the ones telling vapers to go back to smoking.

          I always wondered about the 1 out of 5 dentists who don’t recommend flossing, but this is ridiculous.

      2. Set prices were the way health care was always paid for until everyone decided we all needed insurance.

  4. A good outcome for this would be to put downward price pressure on doctors and hospitals in the area.

    1. If people are paying in cash instead of with insurance, it will. My doctor friends prefer getting paid in cash. They get significantly more cash (as the insurance company doesn’t take a cut) with significantly less paperwork and hassle.

      1. A dentist friend of mine who doesn’t take insurance said that offices that were her size would need two people to deal with insurance paperwork at the cost of $50,000 yearly salary per employee. She said if she took insurance, her prices would automatically jump and that’s before all the pricing games that insurance companies play.

  5. I applaud Walmart’s entry into the healthcare mix, but I also feel a twinge of concern. Anyone who has dealt with the government contracting process is familiar with contracts won by the lowest bidder. They’re also familiar with the often painful reality that the lowest bidder isn’t necessarily the best choice.

    1. Walmart has been the lowest bidder on millions of products for decades now. Walmart knows how to make being the lowest bidder work for everyone involved.

      1. “Walmart knows how to make being the lowest bidder work for everyone involved.”

        Is ‘everyone involved’ include the majority of their employees who also need various gov’t subsidies to pay rent and raise a family?
        Or there suppliers who may have their own profit margins squeezed so low they are in just as bad a condition?

        1. Do you actually believe that tripe? I’d like to see some real cites.

      2. It works for the Waltons, anyway. Everyone else, not so much.

        Consumers get substandard products. Walmart clothing and shoes are lucky to last a month or two. Cheap and poorly made electronics. About the only thing of passable quality in a Walmart is the groceries (which are sold more or less at cost, to bring people in).

        Employees are right around the poverty level. Benefits are scarce. I know a guy who had a heart attack because Walmart insurance wouldn’t pay for his heart medicine.

        1. Consumers get substandard products. Walmart clothing and shoes are lucky to last a month or two. Cheap and poorly made electronics. About the only thing of passable quality in a Walmart is the groceries (which are sold more or less at cost, to bring people in).

          How do you figure? There is no such thing as a “Walmart brand.” They sell name brands that can be found at Walgreens, CVS, your local grocery store, and your local mom and pop. They sell clothing brands that can be found at other stores. Their produce, meat, and baked goods are high quality. They wouldn’t be where they are if they sold garbage.

          1. Supposedly the manufacturers make two versions of all their products: a good one they send to regular stores and a corner-cutting one they only send to Walmart. The warehouses somehow know how to tell the identical boxes apart, and the accountants are keeping a second set of books to keep the scam up.

            Walmart knows about this but doesn’t use its leverage to make them give them the good ones, because they’re evil but not THAT greedy.

        2. They sell what people want. Is that not good enough for you? If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. I doubt you have enough Walmart shopping experience to know what you’re talking about.

        3. Don’t they sell some brand names like Levis?

          And people do buy their Value food brands and seem to like it.

          Wall-Mart knows its target market.

          Of course, that target market is always ‘targeted’ by the left.

  6. Wal Mart did not invent urgent care. This is common for decades. They are late in the game.

    The real game changer is telemedicine.

    1. You’re right, but the catch with that is the people who can’t afford health insurance/health care also probably don’t have the internet needed for telemedicine.

      1. Lol you think people who can’t afford health insurance don’t have internet? I’d like to see the stats on that but my guess is the majority of them have internet, smart phones, and Netflix

        1. Lots of people “cannot afford” what they don’t want to pay for.

  7. If you look at the price list, they really don’t provide health care. Just “tests”. Whee. And a vague price on stitches.

    1. Health care is not medical care.

  8. Wal-Mart gets it.
    There’s a HUGE market for healthcare out there, and I applaud they’re vision.
    Now watch all the republicans and democrats condemn Wal-Mart (and the free market) for taking the initiative to provide better healthcare with small premiums.

    1. “Now watch all the republicans and democrats condemn Wal-Mart (and the free market) for taking the initiative to provide better healthcare with small premiums.”

      Wanna bet that the Republicans and the Democrats will want to shut them down? I doubt that Walmart will pay into campaign coffers at the rate that big medicine and big drug will pay.

  9. “The company has published a pricing list showing that basic check-ups will cost $30”

    Sounds to me like I can pay 30 bucks and get someone to touch my balls. Then for 6 more I can pick up a basket of fried chicken to take home and sit on the couch and eat the whole thing.

    I love Wal-mart even more now.

  10. Does this mean I can buy affordable rhino horn powder and 55 gallon drums of snake venom?

    1. Gotta go to Sam’s Club for the hogshead size.

  11. And just like that Walmart sheds all the goodwill it garnered with their anti gun policy.

  12. not sure I’d call it “high-quality” just yet. affordable, sure.

    1. From what I gather Wal-mart’s existing health services such as eye care is pretty top notch. I used to work with a kid in high school that got a job at Wal-mart, then had them pay for school, became an assistant at their eye facility, then became a doctor there, and he now has his own place and it’s really impressive. He’ll tell you that Wal-mart is no different than his place, but his has a really nice waiting room, more examination rooms, and a much larger selection of glasses. If you’re just going for contacts or you don’t care what your glasses are then Wal-mart is fine.
      I imagine their physicians will be the same.

      1. I’ve never used their eye care services but I’ve been using their pharmacy for a couple of years and have never had a bad experience. People don’t believe me because they’re so used to the general incompetence of Walmarts normal employees, but their pharmacy is top notch and staffed with quick, helpful, and friendly people

        1. Haven’t used Walmart but went to Target for eye care and they were excellent.

  13. So Wal-mart is finally opening the promised Little Clinics?

    No, that’s Kroger.

    Well then they’re opening Walkin Clinics–nope. That’s Walgreens.

    There’s a huge market out there for retail medicine.

    And retail medicine can break the insurance monopoly.

  14. Will all the Doctors be made in China? Sorry, just a joke. It will be interesting to see how it works.

  15. Walmart does well with their pharmacies, and they will do well with health services. But in health services, we should not settle for only having large companies and large nonprofits competing. We will get the most value by having zero regulatory burdens, so that independent practices can deliver higher quality affordably.

  16. my favorite progressive cliches on health care center on these notions: “money has no place in health care” and “health care should be just between the doctor and the patient”

    my response is all of that is fine except in those rare situations where you want somebody else to pay for it.

    I say go for it Walmart! Just move quickly before the special interest lobbies try to head this off by regulatory/statutory preemptive strikes.

  17. This kind of step is long overdue. We’ll be fine as long as governments don’t restrict or outlaw private initiatives in health care like this. If they do, then we can look forward to grey and black markets in health care, because public health care and insurance just isn’t going to get the job done. The more the government interferes in health care, the worse it gets.

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