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."

OK.

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


70Comments
Jan 25, 2013 9:00PM
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This beloved country of mine owes no money to china because walmart keeps buying everything from them. Therefore, over the past decade, walmart has repaid our entire national debt just by buying foreign products.
Jan 25, 2013 9:58AM
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Responding to all you people that responded to me. I know that you liberals think that this government cares about you and your well-being talking about the wolves leading the sheep to the slaughter just like the Nazis didn't Germany in 1938. That's what this reminds me of accept today we can build a lot bigger microwave than they could back then it could seat a couple thousand at a time so you liberal Democrats you think socialism, sounds good will come back and tell me that after someone you love very much passes away because this new healthcare system in the people running it down near Washington DC says on sorry Mr. so-and-so or Mrs. so-and-so, but your grandmother or your grandfather or for God's sakes one of your children need a very expensive drug in order for them to survive in these 15 people down near Washington DC says I'm sorry your situation doesn't fit our criteria. Then come back and tell me how you feel, then? I'll leave that that have a nice day.

Jan 24, 2013 6:39PM
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" the company might offer health insurance coverage to small businesses"  really??? WMT needs to stay out of insurance and banking business!  They are retail and need to stay that way!  Haven't they screwed things up enough?  Sam Walton has probably rolled in his grave 100 million time +.
Jan 22, 2013 4:43PM
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That why it  committed itself to hiring discharged veterans they will get around it . the vets would already have coverage ,avoid extra expenses for preexisting conditions they would be covered by the VA

So in hine sight the out veterans would be committed to selling communist manufactured merchandise

Jan 22, 2013 3:25PM
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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 2:53PM
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Um let me see if i can answer most of the first comments...... How about because a Walmart worker is typically LOW skilled, lower educated and doing work that does not warrant $15per hour+ pay. People who work at Walmart, McDonalds, Pete's shoe store, etc... should not ever expect to make that kind of money. Go to school, get trained and apply yourselves to get a job that will pay that type of salary or better. Nothing cracks me up more than a HS grad demanding to be paid what a manager makes. When you can bring something more than just your overweight, ignorant selves then perhaps a company will pay you what you are worth. Until then, sorry, you don't even deserve Minimum wage..  
Jan 22, 2013 2:09PM
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Even if you dont agree with their methods, Walmart has  done more to keep inflation low than anyone else.  Cutting costs out of the supply chain is their core competency.  We could only be so lucky if they could bring some sanity to costs in the healthcare industry.

Jan 22, 2013 2:03PM
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If W/M started offering health care plans, W/M would then have to offer health care to it's employees thus cutting into it's shareholder profit margins.W/M is not realy to blame here for it's abismal treatment of it's part time staff and ,the Company only does what it legaly is alowed to do by current State labor laws, if you look how W/M staff are treated in Germany (Europe) it is a complete 180 from how they are treated in the USA with health care, paid sick days, paid vacation and other benefits, all mandated by German labor laws and W/M has to comply and they still manage to make a profit. Current Labor laws in the USA are Dickinson by comparison and it is the nature of major  retail, food service and manufacturing business, especially those without any union involvement, to not do the right thing to play and pay fairly but use the labor laws to their own maximum advantage by paying minimum wages, giving minimum breaks and working all the small print to their benefit and not to benefit  the worker as was the original intention when there were no set working hours before breaks or any breaks at all, or minimum working hours for a work week. These laws were fine when they were first instituted but they have been ignored and left unread for so long as to be almost meaningless to employees although they're posted in every (or should be by law) staff room and now these labor laws work against them. It's these current labor laws that allow W/M and other workers to be treated like they are worthless disposable items rather then people trying toearn enough money to just to get by, let alone even make a living. I am far from being a socialist. I believe in capitalism, but money is like manure, it's only good if it's spread it around...... greed is greed and greed is killing capitalism in this country.The more people with real money to spend ( not credit) the better off the people will be. Then we won't have to go to W/M for health care or worry about the Banks and Wall st  gambling our pensions and the economy away

 

Jan 22, 2013 1:38PM
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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 1:14PM
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Hope it's better than what is provided for their employees!!  Try using your insurance when you have a $2,500 deductible!!
Jan 22, 2013 1:12PM
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Yes I agree Walmart really needs to worry about their own employees health care than worrying about doing anything else..maybe if their employees health care was a litte better then than should go out help the other "little man"..

Jan 22, 2013 1:00PM
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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 12:57PM
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They should worry about their own employees cover all that slave labor first!
Jan 22, 2013 12:27PM
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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 12:17PM
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Walmart doesn't pay have to provide health care for their employees because Obozocare has exempted them from it. Them and a few other large employers.
Jan 22, 2013 12:13PM
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what ever comes out of walmart is a lie.
Jan 22, 2013 11:59AM
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Walmart screws their employees out of health care benefits and blames "Obamacare", then considers taking advantage of it to make more profit ? 
Jan 22, 2013 11:54AM
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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 11:46AM
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I DIDN'T FINISH HIGH SCHOOL AND WALMART IS THE ONLY PLACE I COULD FIND A JOB.

 

I DON'T MAKE AS MUCH MONEY AS A DOCTOR SO WALMART MUST BE SCREWING ME!

 

WALMART SUCKS!

 

I ONLY SHOP THERE BECAUSE I CANT AFFORD TO SHOP ANYWHERE ELSE.

 

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