Wal-Mart mulls health coverage for small businesses

The retail giant isn't committing yet. Wal-Mart has a big investment in its pharmacies but has been cautious on where it takes the business.

By Charley Blaine Jan 21, 2013 5:46PM
© Carlos Barria/REUTERSFolks at Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) can't seem to make up their minds about health care.

Just last week, there was talk the company might offer health insurance coverage to small businesses, a group that has trouble buying coverage at reasonable rates.

Sounds like the company might be thinking about organizing a health-care exchange targeting small businesses.

Maybe not. A company spokeswoman told Bloomberg Businessweek the company was evaluating the idea. But, she added, "Wal-Mart does not currently have plans for a private health insurance exchange."


Next, the Orlando Business Journal's Abraham Aboraya, who started all this speculation, quoted a Wal-Mart executive as saying it will open primary care clinics in five to seven years. But, no, maybe not. Later, the company told Aboraya that there was no big plan for primary care.

So it's all very confusing. The larger trend is, however, that small-business health insurance exchanges are starting to get organized. It may be that a Wal-Mart or a Costco Wholesale (COST) may be involved, as opposed to exchanges set up by states, because they have the expertise on negotiating plans covering many thousands of people, particularly Costco.

At the same time, big retail chains, like Wal-Mart, Costco and Target (TGT) which already have large pharmacy operations and offer flu shots and the like, are looking to make their stores one-stop destinations for everything, including outpatient clinics.

They're following the lead of CVS Caremark's (CVS) MinuteClinics and Walgreen's (WAG) Take Care clinics, which have opened in some 800 locations.

The goal of the clinics is not just to provide service. Clinics bring customers into stores and may generate other sales in addition to an immunization or, say, a flu shot, says Patricia Edwards, chief investment officer of Trutina Financial in Bellevue, Wa. Plus they offer the customer quick service and reasonable cost, especially to those without health insurance.

Wal-Mart's health-and-wellness business segment, which includes pharmacy services and over-the-counter drugs, accounted for 11% of the company's $264.2 billion in U.S. sales in the 2012 fiscal year. The fiscal year ends on Jan. 31.

It has dabbled in primary-care clinics, prompted by a pledge from former CEO Lee Scott to open as many as 2,000 clinics by 2012. The total, however, is less than 150 today, in part because, as The Wall Street Journal noted last summer, its original strategy of simply leasing space in a store to a clinic operator didn't work.

A big issue is what the clinics were for. Wal-Mart wanted them to offer simple care. The operators were often large hospital chains that saw the clinics as a means to pull patients into their facilities, The Journal said.

More on Money Now

Jan 21, 2013 10:25PM

This from a company that won't give employees enough hours to qualify for insurance. UGH!!


Jan 21, 2013 10:03PM
Jan 21, 2013 9:31PM
All this is just continual "snow job" by Walmart in an attempt to hide the fact that it STILL does not offer healthcare at an affordable price to it's workers.
Jan 22, 2013 8:25AM
why does walmart talk about insuring small business's but not it's own employees?
Jan 21, 2013 10:19PM
If employees of Wal~Mart are smart, they will NOT sign up for ANY insurance with Wal~Mart.  I did when I was an employee and I also paid in every 2 weeks to the Short/Long term disability.  When I became injured, and was on a Leave of Absence, I could not collect any of that Disability or Insurance help cover medical expenses.  Could not sue Wal~Mart about it because I was told "THEY DO NOT HAVE THEIR OWN INSURANCE"...  IT IS PRIVATELY OWNED BUT NOT BY WAL~MART.  So see, anyone signing up for any of that will be screwing themselves out of money and just handing it over to Wal~Mart.
Jan 21, 2013 10:13PM
I would trust Costco to come up with something that is economical and offer great value, but Wal-Mart?  I wouldn't go there to get an enema for my dog.
Jan 22, 2013 10:00AM

My wife is WalMart employee and we both have health insurance through her job. We never have had problems getting coverage including two major surgeries and a couple of chronic conditions.


Apparently some people think they have no personal responsibility for themselves and it everything they get out of live is not free it costs too much.


Is it possible that these people's attitude towards life explains why so many of them are at the low end?

Jan 22, 2013 9:33AM

Do not trust Wal-Mart. They even have figured out ways to screw their workers out of insurance.  Can you figure the BS you would get trying to make a claim.  They are out for max $$ intake and minimum $$ output.  When they start buying more American made products maybe I will start trusting them a little  more; MAYBE!!!  Does anyone remember when Wal-Mart prided themselves in buying locally made and produced goods to help boost the local economy? Seems that does not happen anymore.

I refuse to patronize Wal-Mart until they change their tactics. I will pay extra at a local store that has a majority of its stock  American made and pay the little extra just to keep the money local.

Jan 22, 2013 10:35AM
Wal-Mart needs to take care of it's own employees first before lining their pockets with more.  I will not shop them unless or until it becomes an absolute necessity.  In AZ they told new hires that they knew they could not afford company health ins. and gave them forms to apply for state ins. so we the taxpayer could foot the bill.  Low wages, no benefits, junk merchandise from China and other slave labor states, forcing small businesses and suppliers out of business.  They don't deserve or need my money.
Jan 22, 2013 1:00PM

Everytime I read complaints about Walmart having unfair wages and not providing insurance for their employees and such all I can do is shake my head. I work for a very popular retail store which is in the fortune 500 and guess what- Walmart employees as a whole are actually paid more then the average salary my company pays. We have the option of opting in to sub-standard health/dental care plans at a cost that sometimes exceeds our paychecks due to the lack of work hours given (and do read the fine lines of the health/dental care coverage you are actually offered to opt in to as you will find most likely at the time you need the services the most that alot of basic services are not even covered under the plans you are paying for out-of-pocket/paycheck).That being said,  I don't understand why people are constantly pointing the fingers at Walmart while knowing from experience that there are other well known and respected companies that do not pay their employees past the minimum wage standard either.


 ...and if it's the goods from China being sold at Walmart that seem to be offending people - spend a day shopping at different stores and see how many items you can buy anywhere that are American made- I found zero in 2 hours worth of time shuffling through everything from socks to coats to pajamas in several different stores.  It won't take any time at all once you start opening your eyes to realize that products from even well-established and trusted companies such as Hanes or Levis are no longer made in the good old USA. Wake up people- until we start finding solutions to bring our businesses and jobs back to America there will be nothing made in the USA- this is not just a problem centering around Walmart.....it's everywhere.


Every business/company that moves their manufacturing to another country tears this country down and the fabric that made us once so great down bit by bit until one day we will be one of the third world countries dependant on every other country for everything from the fuel we need for heat and transportation, to the clothing/shoes we wear, to the food we eat and the only people that will be standing tall will be the greedy corporate/ 1% that turned their backs on the very country that made them what they are...and also what they are becomming.

Jan 22, 2013 8:59AM
I would trust Walmart or Costco to provide better health care and access to care than the federal government.
Jan 22, 2013 6:58AM
It's not that they don't have the money, out of the top ten richest citizens in America, Walmarts has four of them
Jan 22, 2013 12:27PM
The obvious message here is, health care is a growth industry that Walmart thinks they can make money on...one of the major concerns with Obamacare is that it just adds 30 Million people to the already broken system we have, and did nothing substantial to control costs; what we need is a program like Hillary's in 1993 or, dare we say it, a real National Health Plan?
Jan 22, 2013 10:25AM

 You liberals really like coming down on corporations don't you. You think every corporation out there should offer healthcare to ever they hire well what you think's going to happen with Obama care fully kicks in. Well it's going to work like this even Ford, Chrysler and GM will not be offering insurance for their employees anymore, especially new hires why is this why should they if the government's going to go into the healthcare business. So the government can can supply the healthcare not the corporations they rather pay the penalty them pay the healthcare cost for Blue Shield Blue Cross plan for a family of four runs these corporations around $3-$4000 per month per family know what you think you're going to choose any smart businessman let the government furnished the healthcare. I'd rather pay the penalty and I don't blame him. That's why you liberals going destroy this country you think because you got a job that the corporation or small business to give you healthcare and pay for even though the Make a profit because you think profit is evil or you got what you wanted now live with it, and I don't care if you're happy or not. I for one will be glad when this Congress gets a little backbone or some colones to stop funding Obama care when they see is going to bankrupt this country to the point of no return were almost there now by the end of Barack Obama's second term, this country will be in total bankruptcy. These are fax really you believe him or not, it will happen in. We have you liberals who think for so enjoy your frame today you will be crying later I can guarantee that to have a nice day. I will

Jan 22, 2013 9:27AM
Wal-Mart really should get into the medical business.  Then the power of the mega monopsony will be complete.

I've said it in the past, soon we'll all working at Wally World.  And doctors working at the store, still get $1 over min wage, but they'll still be a bit higher above the working stiffs.  They'll get a discount in Isle 3.  YAY!

Just watch out for the Chinese slave master with their whip.  "Get back to work!"  SMACK!
Jan 22, 2013 11:54AM
LOL It will be like Idiocracy, where the box store / shopping club is the size of a city.  "Welcome to Costco; I love you!"
Jan 22, 2013 1:38PM
my daughter was employed by Wal-Mart at the age of 19. she was lured into a walk-in refrigerator to assist a scumbag and was attacked. when she informed the store manager of the attack she was instructed not to call the police," the matter would be handled internally",  when she called corporate and the police, they cut her hours to one hour a week. basically, they fired her. there was even video to support her claims. they fired the scumbag immediately, but made her life hell. so yes wal-mart is evil!!! ....................... I'm sorry what was the topic? It should be, share your EVIL WAL-MART stories.
Jan 22, 2013 3:25PM
Stop blaming Walmart for healthcare.  BUY your own.  Go on Obamacare.   Almost every employer in the country is going to limit hours to under 30.  To give you more would mean they have to pay a large fine (tax).   If you had to pay the government HUGE taxes for working more than 30 hours you wouldn't.

Obamacare has sent healthcare costs through the roof.  Idiots voted for Obamacare, not they get to pay the price.  You will have to buy your own coverage anyway or pay the tax Obamacare requires on every person.  Go sign up for what you voted for.   And remember, you are getting what you voted for.

Jan 22, 2013 7:56AM
As bad as WalMart is, the dollar stores and convenience stores out there belong in China for their mistreatment of employees. 
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