The retailer has been tight-lipped about the move but may be interested in selling Medicare plans through its new insurance arm, Walmart Insurance Services LLC.
Walmart has started offering health plan options, the retailer confirmed to CNBC.
The company has been somewhat enigmatic about its newest venture. It did not put out a press release, but rather posted job openings for Walmart Insurance Service, LLC on its career site.
“Yes, you read that right, Walmart now has an insurance agency,” the post read.
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The posting indicated that the new plans would be Medicare plans.
“Walmart strives to be a center of wellbeing in the communities we serve, and we have a unique, brand-new opportunity to help millions of people find the best Medicare insurance available,” the post continued.
This is not Walmart’s first foray into healthcare and, in fact, the move may not come as much of a surprise to competitors and healthcare experts. The retailer already offered different forms of assistance navigating the healthcare industry as well as various healthcare products.
For example, Walmart offers Healthcare Begins Here as a health insurance marketplace, accessible at Walmart’s stores. Consumers can go to the front of a physical Walmart location and get assistance with finding a health plan.
As part of that program, representatives from a third party company—unaffiliated with Walmart—help consumers explore plans from Aetna, Anthem, Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and at least 16 other healthcare payers. Healthcare Begins Here is open from October 8 to December 15 in 2020, the open enrollment period for Medicare.
Many questions still remain unanswered about the retailer’s new health plan, such as: what will the pricing look like? Will it solely sell Medicare plans or will options be available in other markets as well? Other distinguishing features and target populations remain undisclosed.
There had been speculation in 2018 that Walmart would acquire Humana. It seemed like a natural countermove to the retailer’s competitor CVS Health, which was in the process of finalizing its acquisition of Aetna.
Ultimately, Anthem and Walmart did combine forces to offer a Medicare prescription drug plan. During the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Walmart did partner with Humana to provide coronavirus testing at the retailer’s Neighborhood Market sites. However, no acquisitions have ever materialized.
Walmart also opened four Walmart Health clinics, CNBC noted. These sites provide typical primary care services such as annual checkups or strep tests in addition to counseling, dental, and vision healthcare services.
However, as much as the company has been laying the groundwork for this most recent advancement into healthcare for the last couple of years, the shift is still significant.
“The transformation Walmart is making to become an insurance broker will impact individuals and communities for years to come — this is a chance to be part of something special!” the job posting emphasized.
Experts have noted that the coronavirus pandemic may have fueled continued evolution of the retail health clinic’s role in the healthcare industry. As patients needed a quick, safe way to get tested for the coronavirus, retail health clinics filled the gap with drive-through COVID-19 testing.
In the age of provider consolidation, payer organizations have defended retail health clinics as essential to lowering costs. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) recommended to a Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights that they leverage retail clinics, among other care facilities and delivery strategies, to lower care costs.
Walmart Insurance Services LLC officially filed to conduct business in the state of Arkansas—where Walmart’s headquarters are— with the Arkansas Secretary of State on June 26, 2020, according to a local news outlet. However, the Walmart Insurance Services LLC is considered a Delaware company, the outlet also revealed. The job posting is for positions in Dallas, Texas.
Source: Healthpayer Intelligence