business news in context, analysis with attitude

Bloomberg Businessweek has a story about Walmart's new  healthcare clinics, which represent "the retailer’s attempt to grab a bigger slice of the nation’s $3.6 trillion in health spending by harnessing its greatest asset—the 150 million people coming through its 4,756 stores each week. While Walmart hasn’t said how many clinics it plans to build, it’s signaled that the health center expansion is one of its top growth initiatives. The move pits Walmart against rivals such as CVS Health Corp., which is rolling out its own 'HealthHubs,' and creates a new front in Walmart’s battle against Inc., which also wants to disrupt the U.S. health-care system."

Here's how Walmart is approaching the clinics:

"In addition to medical, dental, and eye care, the centers also provide X-rays, hearing checks, and diagnostic lab tests for things like blood glucose and lipids. The range of services can improve the quality of care: If a patient comes in to see the dentist only to learn his toothache is caused by a sinus infection, he can immediately be handed over to one of the center’s physicians.

"Whatever a patient needs, she knows the price upfront—a huge departure from how health care usually works and a way to avoid the surprise billing by providers that can stick even patients with health insurance with unexpectedly high out-of-network charges … Walmart set those prices by estimating the cost of common services, including copays and deductibles, then coming in well under that, often half as much. It also is legendary at squeezing costs out of business processes."

In other words, always low prices.

Fascinating … and you can read the entire story here.

KC's View:

The story makes the entirely fair point that Walmart will have some explaining to do if it is going to get people to start putting their healthcare needs in its hands to this degree.  But I think that in a nation where health care costs continue to be out of control, and where it seems to be impossible to reach any sort of political consensus about how to address the issue, it may not be all that hard, especially in places where options are limited.