Healthcare News & Insights

Walmart announces big benefit changes in 2020: What this means for hospitals

Retail giant Walmart may draw in customers looking for value, but employees are about to see a jump in the value of their benefits in 2020 as the company steps up to lead corporate healthcare innovation. And its offerings may make it a major competitor for hospitals and health systems.

The nation’s largest employer announced a list of five new priorities on Oct. 3 intended to make healthcare easier to navigate for its employees in 2020.

To start, in three areas of the country – Orlando-Tampa, Dallas-Ft. Worth and northwestern Arkansas – the company will curate a list of “high quality physicians” in eight specialties: primary care, cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, orthopedics and pulmonology.

At the same time, healthcare data analytics company Embold Health will monitor quality data from employee visits to doctors on the curated list to provide quarterly updates to Walmart corporate HQ.

“Walmart said the goal is to both give workers the information needed to make healthcare decisions based on quality and to offer feedback to regional physicians who may want to work their way on to the featured lists,” according to an article in FierceHealthcare.

In addition to the list of featured healthcare providers, the four other additions for 2020 benefits are:

  • expanded telehealth
  • a personal healthcare assistant
  • a national quality provider resource, and
  • nationwide access to fitness clubs.

In the telehealth area, employees already had telemedicine in nearly every plan, but Walmart is adding a “personal online doctor” for employees in plans in Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

This pilot program allows workers to manage chronic conditions, and get referrals and nutritional counseling. The company expects these additions to cut down on employees’ current wait times to within one hour for a virtual care visit and within one week for a behavioral health visit.

Could other corporations follow Walmart’s lead in improving healthcare options?

“I think some employers are somewhat hesitant to take the lead on a change in healthcare,” Steve Wojcik, vice president for public policy at the National Business Group on Health, told FierceHealth. “If they see other employers – especially big-name employers – doing it, they might be willing to step forward and do something similar.

Other big steps

In September, Walmart announced its plan to help meet the growing need for healthcare workers.

About 1.5 million associates will be able to apply for one of seven bachelor’s degrees and two career diplomas in health-related fields for $1 a day through Live Better U, Walmart’s education benefit program.

The health and wellness courses include career diploma programs for pharmacy technicians and opticians through Penn Foster and seven bachelor’s degrees in health science, health and wellness, and healthcare management/administration offered through Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Bellevue University and Wilmington University.

Also in September, Walmart opened its first clinic, Walmart Health, in Dallas, GA to provide low-cost primary care, including mental health.

Implications for hospitals

Walmart’s new offerings may be a mixed bag for hospitals overall. If the retail giant expands its competitive pricing model to its healthcare services, it may hurt your facility’s bottom line – and it may even cause you to lose patients as the store’s employees take advantage of these benefits.

However, its commitment to educating associates to potentially work in health care could be beneficial. As more trained employees enter the workforce, there will be more people looking for jobs, which may make it easier for you to find top talent to work at your hospital.

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