Walmart aims to bolster its standing as a health care destination through a long-term partnership with health insurance and services giant UnitedHealth Group.
Under the 10-year collaboration, announced yesterday, Walmart and Minnetonka, Minn.-based UnitedHealth plan to provide a range of affordable health services designed to improve care outcomes and the patient experience. UnitedHealth’s Optum unit will arm Walmart Health clinicians with analytics and decision support tools to deliver value-focused care to seniors and Medicare recipients.
Walmart noted that the UnitedHealth services will build on care already administered at Walmart Health centers, which employ a collaborative, team-based delivery model by working with local health care professionals to provide basic health care and diagnostic services. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer added that the partnership also will spur the transition to value-based care, in which clinicians focus on care models that drive positive results for patients.
“We’re on a journey to transform health care, connecting more people to the right care at the right time — at a cost that makes sense,” Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement. “This collaboration puts the patient at the center of health care by leveraging the strength and complementary skill sets of our two companies to accelerate access to quality care.”
Plans call for the joint services to launch next year at 15 Walmart Health centers in Florida and Georgia and later expand into new market areas. Walmart said the collaboration ultimately will serve hundreds of thousands of seniors and Medicare beneficiaries in value-based arrangements via multiple Medicare Advantage plans.
Starting in January, that will include a co-branded Medicare Advantage plan in Georgia, called UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage Walmart Flex (HMO-POS), Walmart reported. Also in January, Walmart Health Virtual Care is slated to be in-network for commercial members in UnitedHealth’s Choice Plus PPO plan, offering consumers another option to access care.
Walmart said that, down the road, the partnership will serve more consumers — including those participating in commercial and Medicaid plans — by providing access to fresh food and enhancing initiatives focusing on social determinants of health, over-the-counter and prescription drugs, and dental and vision services.
“UnitedHealth Group and Walmart share a deep commitment to high-quality and affordable primary care led services that address all of a patient’s health needs in ways that are convenient for them and improve health outcomes,” stated UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty.
Walmart’s collaboration with UnitedHealth comes as retail health providers of all stripes are looking to broaden access and their array of services, especially as health and wellness became top-of-mind for many consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent years, these providers also have sharpened their focus on value-based care to improve efficacy, balancing cost by emphasizing modes of care that deliver demonstrated outcomes for patients.
Walmart already is the nation’s third-largest pharmacy retailer, with more than 5,000 locations across the country, providing not just prescriptions but also medication management, immunizations and other basic health services. The company expanded on that with the Walmart Health center concept, which made its debut in September 2019 at a location attached to a remodeled Walmart Supercenter in Dallas, Ga. And last year, Walmart Health expanded into virtual services via the acquisition of telehealth company MeMD, which Walmart said enables it to provide more accessible, convenient care to more patients “when and how they want it.”
Services offered by Walmart Health centers include primary care, lab tests, X-rays and EKGs, behavioral health and counseling, dental care, and optical and hearing care. The centers are operated by physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists, behavioral health providers and optometrists. On-site Walmart Care Hosts and Community Health Workers help customers navigate their visit and learn about available resources. Patients can make appointments, input insurance information and confirm eligibility at walmarthealth.com. Currently, Walmart Health has 24 centers in Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and Illinois.