Back in 2019, Walmart announced that it was opening its first health clinic in Georgia. Now, with three Walmart Health clinics in Georgia and one in Springdale, Arkansas, it is looking to open at least six additional Walmart Health clinics in the greater Atlanta area by the end of 2020, and has plans to enter the Florida market next year, starting with one health clinic in the Jacksonville area, followed by two clinics in the Chicago area.
According to its website, a primary care appointment at a Walmart Health Clinic costs just US$40, or $20 for a child. “We didn’t set out to disrupt healthcare. We set out to meet the needs of our customers at Walmart,” said Walmart President of Health and Wellness Sean Slovenski during a panel hosted by the American Telemedicine Association. “When we say it’s $20 to have your child seen with a primary care physician, and it’s really $20 … When you come in and walk out and get the bill and it’s still $20, that’s quite a disruption in the space.”
Walmart’s healthcare ‘supercentres’ combine primary care, urgent care, dental care and mental health counselling all in one. Considering that Walmart already has pharmacies and optical centres at many of its stores, the opening of its Walmart Health Clinics seems to be a pretty logical step for the retail giant, which is now making moves towards entering the health insurance market. The company is currently hiring Medicare insurance agents to help get its new Walmart Insurance venture off the ground.
“We currently offer access to insurance information in our Walmart Health locations, and we have a long-standing education programme called Healthcare Begins Here to help people find the right insurance plan for them,” Walmart spokeswoman Marilee McInnis commented. “We’re expanding our current insurance services to now include the sale of insurance policies to our customers.”
It's not yet been confirmed, but rumours abound that Walmart will be selling Medicare Advantage plans, which have been experiencing considerable growth over the past decade.
Developments like this will revolutionise the US healthcare market, which has for so long been the most expensive healthcare system in the world. Offering healthcare at such a seemingly low price (especially for the US market) will encourage fiercer competition, driving down healthcare costs and making healthcare more accessible to patients in the US – both financially and physically, through the opening up of accessible clinics near populous areas. At the same time, already having a solid footing in the US retail market, and selling pharmaceuticals at incredibly low prices (not to mention that the company already has relationships with several telemedicine firms), this development will likely place Walmart head to head with its rival business behemoth Amazon, which has also been making great gains in the healthcare sphere. How will this play out long-term, and will having monopoly on healthcare (and other markets) ultimately drive up costs again? One thing’s for certain, the US healthcare market is on the verge of a massive transformation.