Sam’s Club launches $1 telehealth visits for members: 7 details

On-Demand Text-Based Primary Care App | 98point6

Sam’s Club partnered with primary care telehealth provider 98point6 to offer members virtual visits.

Seven details:

1. Sam’s Club now offers members access to telehealth visits through a text-based app run by 98point6.

2. Members can purchase a $20 quarterly subscription for the first three months; the regular sign-up fee is $30 per person. After the first three months, members pay $33.50 every three months.

3. The subscription gives members unlimited telehealth visits for $1 per visit. The service has board-certified physicians available 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

4. Members can also subscribe for pediatric care.

5. Physicians can diagnose and treat 400 conditions including cold and flu-like symptoms as well as allergies. They can also monitor chronic conditions including diabetes, depression and anxiety.

6. Members can use the app to obtain prescriptions and lab orders as well.

7. Sam’s Club has around 600 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico and millions of members.

Offering access to telemedicine was on our roadmap in the pre-COVID world, but the current environment expedited the need for this service to be easily accessible, readily available and most of all, affordable,” said John McDowell, vice president of pharmacy operations and divisional merchandise at Sam’s Club. “Through providing access to the 98point6 app in a pilot, we quickly realized that our members were eager to have mobile telehealth options and we wanted to provide this healthcare solution to all of our members as a standalone option.”




Labs warn COVID-19 testing demand will top capacity soon as new hotspots emerge

Dive Brief:

  • With the spike in coronavirus cases in Southern and Western states, commercial laboratories say they do not have the capacity to keep up with growing demand for their testing services and predict longer turnaround times for results over the coming weeks.
  • The American Clinical Laboratory Association, which represents LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics and other labs, said Saturday its members have seen a steady increase in the volume of COVID-19 test orders recently, specifically calling out the fact that critical testing materials are in short supply.
  • Quest on Thursday issued its own warning that despite the rapid expansion of its testing capacity, demand has been growing faster. In particular, the lab giant noted that orders for molecular diagnostic services have increased by about 50% over the past three weeks.

Dive Insight:

U.S. commercial labs had made “significant strides” during the coronavirus pandemic by expanding testing capacity from about 100,000 tests per day in early April to more than 300,000 currently, according to ACLA.

But newly emerging hotspots like Arizona, California and Texas are putting a strain on labs and an already limited supply of testing materials, the group said.

While labs nationwide are trying to increase capacity by purchasing more testing machines and attempting to secure additional test materials from suppliers, ACLA President Julie Khani cautioned, “the reality of this ongoing global pandemic is that testing supplies are limited” and “every country across the globe is in need of essential testing supplies, like pipettes and reagents, and that demand is likely to increase in the coming months.”

Khani said ACLA has been in talks with the Trump administration and supply chain partners about the challenges labs face as they try to increase their level of respective COVID-19 testing abilities to meet the anticipated increase in U.S. demand for tests over the coming weeks.

In the absence of a solution, Khani warned that significant demand “will likely exceed” labs’ testing capacities and “could extend turnaround times for test results.”

For its part, Quest’s statement on Thursday described the U.S. coronavirus outbreak as an “evolving” situation that is putting a “strain” on the company’s COVID-19 testing resources.

“Today, we have the capacity to perform approximately 110,000 of these tests a day (770,000 a week). Despite the rapid expansion of our testing capacity, demand for testing has been growing faster,” according to Quest.

Currently, Quest’s average turnaround time for test results are one day for hospital patients, pre-operative patients in acute care settings, and symptomatic healthcare workers, and two to three days for all other patient populations. However, the company warned that “given increased demand, we expect average turnaround times near term to extend in excess of 3 days.”

Nonetheless, Quest said it is taking actions to try to increase COVID-19 testing scale, with the goal of being able to perform 150,000 tests per day. Toward that end, the company is installing additional testing platforms in its network of U.S. labs and said it is collaborating with independent labs who currently have underused capacity.

Quest’s rival LabCorp was not immediately available for comment on its testing capacity amid reports of demand increasing across the country.





DOJ charges execs, others with elaborate $1.4B billing scheme using rural hospitals

Office of Attorney Recruitment & Management | Department of Justice

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Justice is charging 10 defendants for an “elaborate” pass-through billing scheme that used small rural hospitals across three states as shells to submit fraudulent claims for laboratory testing to commercial insurers, jacking up reimbursement.
  • The defendants, including hospital executives, lab owners and recruiters, billed private payers roughly $1.4 billion from November 2015 to February 2018 for pricey lab testing, reaping $400 million.
  • The four rural hospitals used in the scheme are: Cambellton-Graceville Hospital, a 25-bed rural facility in Florida; Regional General Hospital of Williston, a 40-bed hospital in Florida; Chestatee Regional Hospital, a 49-bed facility in Georgia; and Putnam County Memorial Hospital, a 25-bed hospital in Missouri. Only Putnam emerged from the scheme relatively unscathed: Chestatee was sold to a health system that plans to replace it with a newer facility, Cambellton-Graceville closed in 2017 and RGH of Williston was sold for $100 to an accounting firm earlier this month.

Dive Insight:

The indictment, filed in the Middle District of Florida and unsealed Monday, alleges the 10 defendants, using management companies they owned, would take over rural hospitals often struggling financially. They would then bill commercial payers for millions of dollars for pricey urine analysis drug tests and blood tests through the rural hospitals, though the tests were normally conducted at outside labs, and launder the money to hide their trail and distribute proceeds.

The rural hospitals had negotiated rates with commercial insurers for higher reimbursement for tests than if they’d been run at an outside labs, so the facilities were used as a shell for fraudulent billing for often medically unnecessary tests, the indictment alleges.

The defendants, aged 34 to 60, would get urine and other samples by paying kickbacks to recruiters and healthcare providers, like sober homes and substance abuse treatment centers.

Screening urine tests, to determine the presence or absence of a substance in a patient’s system, is generally inexpensive and simple — it can be done at a substance abuse facility, a doctor’s office or a lab. But confirmatory tests, to identify concentration of a drug, are more precise and sensitive and have to be done at a sophisticated lab.

As such they’re more expensive and are typically reimbursed at higher rates than screening urine tests. None of the rural hospitals had the capacity to conduct confirmatory tests, or blood tests, on a large scale, but frequently billed in-network insurers, including CVS Health-owned Aetna, Florida Blue and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, for the service from 2015 to 2018, the indictment says.

Rural hospitals are facing unprecedented financial stress amid the pandemic, but have been fighting to keep their doors open for years against shrinking reimbursement and lowering patient volume. That can give bad actors an opportunity to come in and assume control.

One of the defendants, Jorge Perez, 60, owns a Miami-based hospital operator called Empower, which has seen many of its facilities fail after insurers refused to pay for suspect billing. Half of rural hospital bankruptcies last year were affiliated with Empower, which controlled 18 hospitals across eight states at the height of the operation. Over the past two years, 12 of the hospitals have declared bankruptcy. Eight have closed, leaving their rural communities without healthcare and a source of jobs.

“Schemes that exploit rural hospitals are particularly egregious as they can undermine access to care in underserved communities,” Thomas South, a deputy assistant inspector general in the Office of Personnel Management Office of Inspector General, said in a statement.






Walmart to expand health centers to Arkansas this month

Walmart Opening More Healthcare 'Super Centers'

Walmart will open two more standalone health clinics this month, including a site in Arkansas, the company said June 17.

The health clinics, called Walmart Health, will offer primary care, imaging, lab, dental and behavioral health services. 

The health clinics opening this month will be in Loganville, Ga., and Springdale, Ark. The Loganville Walmart Health opened June 17. The first Arkansas location will open June 24.

The company already has clinics in the Georgia cities of Dallas and Calhoun.

Walmart said it believes that expanding the standalone clinics will help bring affordable, quality healthcare to more Americans, because 90 percent of them live within 10 miles of a Walmart store. 

“Patients have responded favorably to our low, transparent pricing for key healthcare services, regardless of insurance status,” Walmart’s senior vice president of health and wellness, Sean Slovenski wrote in a blog post. “They’re also appreciative of the convenience of our facilities that offer primary and urgent care, labs, X-ray and diagnostics, counseling, dental, optical and hearing services, all in one central facility.”