- Walmart is partnering with Anthem to expand the services the retail giant can offer in the healthcare industry.
- Consumers could benefit from the Walmart expansion in a number of ways, including lower prices due to more competition.
- Health spending in the U.S. is expected to rise 5.3 percent in 2018.
Walmart is expanding its offerings of healthcare-related services in hopes of increasing its stake in the ever-growing healthcare market. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) estimate health spending in the U.S. will rise 5.3 percent in 2018 and that spending will continue to trend upward for at least the next decade.
There are at least five ways consumers could benefit from Walmart’s expansion into the healthcare market.
1. Better Access to Over-the-Counter Products
Walmart’s collaboration with Anthem, Inc., will give consumers who are enrolled in Anthem’s Medicare Advantage Plan the ability to use their over-the-counter (OTC) allowances to purchase medications and devices, like pain relievers, support braces, first aid products and more, at Walmart stores and on Walmart.com.
Walmart has more than 5,000 stores and offers free two-day shipping on orders of $35 or more on Walmart.com. With this deal, Walmart’s approach to one-stop-shopping expands to further consolidate errands, enabling customers getting screenings to get related treatment products in the same visit to the store.
2. Help With Enrolling in Healthcare Options
Walmart offers in-person support for customers signing up for health insurance with Medicare, a Public Healthcare Exchange plan or other sources through a partnership with DirectHealth.com.
3. Free Screenings and Flu Shots
Walmart offers free health and vision screenings and flu shots, as well as low-cost immunizations, at up to 4,600 locations every year during their Wellness Event day. Pharmacy chains like CVS — which has partnerships with Anthem and Target — already provide similar services, so this move by Walmart increases options and competition for consumers.
4. More Competition Drives Prices Down
Walmart isn’t the only big company trying to get a piece of the healthcare pie. Amazon introduced a line of OTC medicines in February 2018 and also sells medical supplies to hospitals, doctors and dentists. Target introduced Target Clinics as part of a collaboration with Kaiser Permanente in 2014 to bring urgent care to Target stores. As more big companies infiltrate the healthcare business, competition should drive prices down.
5. Better Access to Preventive Services
Ninety percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store. In rural areas, consumers who couldn’t easily get to a doctor’s office might be able to get to a Walmart store. By offering preventive services like screenings and flu shots, Walmart is in a position to be able to help a lot of consumers who could not — or would not — otherwise see a doctor.
As healthcare continues to grow past the $3 trillion mark in the U.S., more companies are likely to want to get into the business. With Walmart’s existing retail presence and interest in healthcare offerings, you might see even more benefits of this expansion in the future at Walmart and among other retailers and healthcare providers.
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