Walmart, Amazon continue to build healthcare presence

Walmart Health: A Deep Dive into the $WMT Corporate Strategy in Health Care  | by Nisarg Patel | Medium

Late last week, retail giant Walmart announced its plan to acquire national telemedicine provider MeMD, for an undisclosed sum. According to Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Walmart’s executive vice president for health, the acquisition “complements our brick-and-mortar Walmart Health locations”, allowing the company to “expand access and reach consumers where they are”.

MeMD, founded in 2010, provides primary care and mental health services to five million patients nationally. The acquisition extends Walmart’s health delivery capabilities beyond the handful of in-store and store-adjacent clinics it runs, and follows the launch of its own Medicare Advantage-focused broker business, and partnership with Medicare Advantage start-up Clover Health to offer a co-branded insurance product. 

Walmart has been climbing the healthcare learning curve for several years, building on its sizeable retail pharmacy business, and seems to have hit on a successful formula in its latest in-person clinic model, which includes primary care, behavioral health, vision, and dental services. The retailer plans to add 22 new clinic locations by the end of this year, and its new telemedicine offering will allow it to expand its virtual reach even further.

The MeMD acquisition also represents a new front in Walmart’s head-to-head competition with Amazon, which launched its own national telemedicine service earlier this year. That service, Amazon Care, is targeted at the employer market, and right on cue, Amazon announced its first customer sale last week—to Precor, a fitness equipment company. 

Both retail giants are slowly circling the $3.6T healthcare industry, targeting inefficiencies by deploying their expertise in convenience and consumer engagement. Incumbents beware.

9 numbers that show how big Walmart’s role in healthcare is

Georgia Is First State For Walmart's 'Health Center' | 90.1 FM WABE

Walmart has continued to grow its presence in healthcare over the past few years, with expansions of its primary care clinics and the launch of its new insurance arm.

Here are nine numbers that show how big Walmart is in healthcare and how it plans to grow:

Walmart has opened 20 standalone healthcare centers and plans to open at least 15 more in 2021. The health centers offer primary care, urgent care, labs, counseling and other services.

Walmart’s board approved a plan in 2018 to scale to 4,000 clinics by 2029. However, that plan is in flux as the retail giant may be rolling back its clinic strategy, according to a February Insider report.

Walmart in January confirmed plans to offer COVID-19 vaccines in 11 states and Puerto Rico.

In 2020, Walmart established 600 COVID-19 testing sites.

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

The Walmart Health model lowers the cost of delivering healthcare services by about 40 percent for patients, according to Walmart’s former health and wellness president Sean Slovenski.

In October, Walmart partnered with Medicare Advantage insurer Clover Health on its first health insurance plans, which will be available to 500,000 people in eight Georgia counties. 

Walmart’s insurance arm, Walmart Insurance Services, partnered with eight payers during the Medicare open enrollment period in 2020 to sell its Medicare products. Humana, UnitedHealthcre and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield were among the insurers offering the products.

Walmart is slowing its ambitious push into healthcare, employees and leaked documents reveal

https://www.businessinsider.com/walmart-slowing-healthcare-clinics-strategy-2021-2

Walmart Health

In 2018, Walmart‘s board of directors approved a bold plan to scale to 4,000 clinics by 2029.

The timeline laid out a net investment of $3 billion, not counting profits from the clinics, and a rollout strategy, according to a February 2019 presentation to the board obtained by Insider.

The vision was backed by former Walmart US CEO Greg Foran, the health team’s biggest champion who left Walmart in 2019. And it was dreamed up by Sean Slovenski, who Foran asked to come up with a big idea in healthcare as Walmart’s biggest competitors were pushing deeper into the space.

Now those leaders have been replaced by a team with a different philosophy, and the strategy is in flux at the same time Walmart is dealing with the pandemic and focusing on e-commerce, Insider has learned through conversations with eight former and current employees. 

One coalition inside Walmart is happy with the change of pace —the retailer has 20 clinics currently, with at least 15 slotted for 2021 — because healthcare is hard, and the clinics are a work in progress.

Another coalition is frustrated by what they see as a stark departure from the initial goal to provide inexpensive care for people around the US quickly as possible.

Walmart didn’t comment on whether the rollout was slowing, but said it continued to “experiment” with Walmart Health centers and that the pandemic had reaffirmed its commitment to healthcare. It pointed to the launch of pharmacy curbside delivery, COVID-19 testing sites, and vaccine administration as evidence.

Walmart prepares 5,000+ pharmacies to administer the COVID vaccine

The CDC selected Walmart and Sam’s Club to help administer COVID-19 vaccines in communities across the United States.

Why it’s important: With 5,000+ pharmacy locations, the company can administer the vaccine in hard-to-reach parts of the country.

Walmart Health COO outlines health insurance business: 5 things to know

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/payer-issues/walmart-health-coo-outlines-health-insurance-business-5-things-to-know.html?utm_medium=email

NCDHHS on Twitter: "A few years ago, Durham's David Tedrow couldn't drive a  car. He'd forgotten how to answer a telephone. Now, he's started Senior  Health Insurance Brokers, LLC, and was honored

Lori Flees, senior vice president and COO of Walmart Health, officially launched Walmart Insurance Services Oct. 6. The insurance agency will “assist people with enrolling in insurance plans and simplify what’s historically been a cumbersome, confusing process,” Ms. Flees said.

Five things to know:

1. Ms. Flees outlined the operations of Walmart Insurance Services in a Oct. 6 blog post. Walmart will begin selling Medicare insurance plans during this year’s open enrollment period, from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. 

2. Walmart Insurance Services will provide Medicare products, including Part D, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans. The products will be offered by Humana, UnitedHealthcare, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Simply Health, WellCare, Clover Health and Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield. More insurers will be added, Ms. Flees said.

3. In July, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette broke news that Walmart had started seeking Medicare sales managers and insurance agents for a new entity called Walmart Insurance Services.

4. In early October, Walmart announced its partnership with Medicare Advantage insurer Clover Health on its first health insurance plans, which will be open to half a million people in eight counties in Georgia.

5. Walmart’s insurance business is licensed in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Ms. Flees said the company has hired insurance agents to help people find insurance plans.

Walmart files plans for standalone clinic in Florida

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/capital/walmart-files-plans-for-standalone-clinic-in-florida.html?utm_medium=email

Walmart Health: A Deep Dive into the $WMT Corporate Strategy in Health Care  | by Nisarg Patel | Medium

Walmart plans to open a 6,500-square-foot standalone clinic in Middleburg, Fla., according to the Jacksonville Record & Observer, which cited plans filed with the local water management district. 

The new clinic is part of the expansion Walmart Health announced July 22. The new health center will offer primary care, urgent care, labs, imagining, counseling, optical and hearing services, according to the report. A timeline for when the clinic will open has not been released.

In addition to expanding into Florida, Walmart Health is also planning to open a few clinics in the Chicago market. The company already has freestanding health centers in Georgia and Arkansas. 

 

 

 

 

Administration delays final rule easing anti-kickback regs until next August

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/trump-admin-delays-final-rule-easing-anti-kickback-regs-until-next-august/584158/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202020-08-26%20Healthcare%20Dive%20%5Bissue:29307%5D&utm_term=Healthcare%20Dive

Dive Brief:

  • CMS has pushed back publishing a final rule that would ease anti-kickback regulations on providers by a year. The move is likely to anger healthcare organizations that have long clamored for the rule’s relaxation.
  • The deadline to finalize the rule proposed Oct. 17, 2019, is now Aug. 31, 2021. Originally, the rule relaxing stipulations of the decades-old Stark Law was expected this month. It’s unclear how the extension affects OIG’s tandem rule slacking similar regulations outlined in the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute and the Civil Monetary Penalties Law.
  • CMS chalked up the delay to the need to detangle the many thorny issues raised by healthcare companies in their comments on the rule. “We are still working through the complexity of the issues raised by comments received on the proposed rule and therefore we are not able to meet the announced publication target date,” Wilma Robinson, HHS deputy executive secretary, wrote in a notice on the change dated Monday. CMS did not respond to requests to clarify what issues are tying up the rule.

Dive Insight:

Hospital groups are unlikely to be pleased with the delay. The American Hospital Association earlier this month sent the Office of Management and Budget a letter urging them to expedite the review and release of the final Stark and AKS regulations.

“These rules take on even more significance in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” AHA EVP Thomas Nickels wrote in the letter dated Aug. 19. “These rules will remove unnecessary regulatory burden from hospitals and health systems, allow for enhanced care coordination for patients, improve quality, and reduce waste in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.”

AHA did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication.

Healthcare organizations have said the Stark Law and Anti-Kickback Statute, passed decades ago in an attempt to deter physicians from referring patients to other locations or for services that would financially benefit them, are outdated and burdensome. Providers say the proposed changes are long overdue, citing longstanding concerns the laws hinder efforts to coordinate patient care across different sites and episodes.

The proposed rule, if finalized, would sharply ease federal anti-kickback regulations in a bid to help providers use value-based payment arrangements, reflecting the growing shift away from fee-for-service reimbursement and siloed care models.

The rule clarified exemptions from the physician self-referral law for certain value-based payment arrangements among physicians, providers and suppliers. Specifically, it applies to models with a specific patient population, where one of the entities takes on full financial risk for providing Medicare Part A and Part B for the first six months. The payments can either be capitated or global.

Doctors would be required to pay back a fourth of payments if they don’t meet financial goals.

The proposed rule also introduced a new exemption for certain arrangements under which a doctor receives limited payment for items and services that he or she provides, and another that would allow hospitals and medical device manufacturers to donate cybersecurity tools and other related software to doctors without fear of retribution.

Comments on the proposed rule from the hospital and physician community were generally supportive of the changes, though some organizations, including the American Hospital Association and Walmart, thought the feds didn’t go far enough. Hospital groups argued the exceptions should be expanded to include private payers, along with Medicare and Medicaid and the definition of value-based arrangements should be broadened, along with some other clarifications.

Per the Social Security Act, agencies have to maintain a regular timeline for publishing final regulations, normally within three years of the draft. However, they are allowed to extend the original deadline, if they justify the change.

 

 

 

 

Walmart confirms a new avatar — it’s also a health insurance agency

https://medcitynews.com/2020/07/walmart-confirms-a-new-avatar-its-also-a-health-insurance-broker/?utm_campaign=MCN%20Daily%20Top%20Stories&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=90973681&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-81Jwk3CVNhJLTDzB0d_5dxRASKqJQULhnQYEg1uxEGxr-l_EbrHhNlSq7UcPZ103ku0wBylrpCk8Y0i1vrK7rRE5rJuA&utm_content=90973681&utm_source=hs_email

Should I buy health insurance from Walmart? - Castaline Insurance ...

Walmart quietly launched a new health insurance business. The company, called Walmart Insurance, was filed with the Arkansas Secretary of State last month.

Walmart is making clear what an executive declared in a virtual conference: that it is firmly in the healthcare business, not just in retail healthcare.

News emerged today that the company is planning to throw its weight around in another healthcare segment in need of an overhaul: insurance. A spokeswoman from the Bentonville, Arkansas retail behemoth confirmed that the company has created “Walmart Insurance Services LLC” to sell insurance policies. The business entity’s name was first filed with the Arkansas Secretary of State in late June.

“We currently offer access to insurance information in our Walmart Health locations, and we have a long-standing education program called Healthcare Begins Here to help people find the right insurance plan for them,” spokeswoman Marilee McInnis wrote in an email. “We’re expanding our current insurance services to now include the sale of insurance policies to our customers.”

A handful of job postings at a call center in the Dallas metro also match up with Walmart Insurance Services, as first pointed out by Talk Business & Politics. Walmart has listings for licensed insurance agents and Medicare sales supervisors.

“Yes, you read that right, Walmart now has an insurance agency,” the listings read.

It looks like the new subsidiary will be focused on selling Medicare Advantage plans, though the company was mum when asked for additional details. The spokeswoman’s statement about the “sale of insurance policies to our customers” also leaves open the possibility of Walmart expanding its services beyond senior shoppers in the future.

Medicare Advantage plans have been experiencing rapid growth in the past decade, with more than a third of all beneficiaries enrolled in a plan managed by a private insurer. That figure is expected to increase in the future.

 

Deeper into the pharmacy space

Separately, on Tuesday, Walmart announced that it had struck a partnership with  PBM startup Capital Rx, which provides health plans real-time information on prescription drug prices.

Walmart has been a big player in the pharmacy space for several years, and the company appears to be deepening that through this partnership

“‘Everyday low price’ has been a guiding principle at Walmart. We take pride in providing affordable prices to more than 160 million customers who shop Walmart each week,” Walmart Health and Wellness Vice President Luke Kleyn said in a news release. “Working with Capital Rx will allow us to do the same for prescription drugs,”

Capital Rx was founded just over two years ago by AJ Loiacono, a former insurance auditor, with the idea of providing drug prices as part of pharmacy benefit plans.

Loiacono started his career in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, where “everything that comes out of that plant has a price.”

When he moved over to the auditing and procurement side, working with payers and self-insured companies, he was shocked to find out that none of their contracts included drug prices. To solve this, the company uses Medicaid’s National Average Drug Acquisition Cost, rather than the average wholesale price, to calculate costs.

As a standalone company, Capital Rx was able to provide price information for retail drugs, but they weren’t able to do the same for mail and specialty drugs. The partnership with Walmart will “complete the model,” with Walmart providing mail and specialty drug fulfillment.

With the partnership, Capital Rx was able to quickly sign on some payers, though it hasn’t yet disclosed which ones.

“Walmart is a diversified company. We liked the fact that they were independent. They’re not part of a PBM or a health system today,” Loiacono said. “The other part of it is, they have scale.”

Loiacono also pointed to similar goals in price transparency — something Walmart emphasized when it shared the cash pay prices for its new health clinics.

“This is what we’re seeing a little bit more of as the future in the roadmap,” Loiacono said. “They’re making a serious investment in healthcare.”

 

 

 

 

How will Covid-19 affect employers’ healthcare costs? It depends, says PwC report

https://medcitynews.com/2020/06/how-will-covid-19-affect-employers-healthcare-costs-it-depends-says-pwc-report/?utm_campaign=MCN%20Daily%20Top%20Stories&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=90212485&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_yxVYJ-KPqLWePqF49EqIVP4Ca8AfsO5zVEzr3oseXQAZKeZI4EpC67d02dlcVim6PhZfM–3Kbpb8tmDBXhD-xatSIQ&utm_content=90212485&utm_source=hs_email

How will Covid-19 affect employers' healthcare costs? It depends ...

A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers said employer spending on healthcare could increase anywhere from 4% to 10% next year. The report highlighted three potential scenarios depending on what happens with the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic slowdown strain company budgets, employers are trying to calculate how much they will spend on healthcare next year. Soon, they will be picking health plans for 2021, and the pandemic will certainly go into that calculus.

A new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers attempts to forecast healthcare costs for next year. But there are still lots of unknowns. According to the report, the medical cost trend could increase between 4% and 10% in 2021.

Researchers with PwC’s Health Research Institute interviewed health plan actuaries from 12 national and regional payers over the past three months. The consensus? They were still unsure about the pandemic’s effect on spending now and what it will mean for 2021.

PwC considered three potential scenarios:

  • If healthcare spending remains down in 2021, PwC expects a 4% medical cost trend
  • If spending continues to grow at the same rate that it has from 2014 to 2019, PwC forecasts a 6% medical cost trend
  • If spending increases significantly next year in part due to pent-up demand from delayed care during the pandemic, PwC forecasts a 10% medical cost trend.

Employers are already considering measures to reduce their costs next year. For instance, a growing number are looking at narrow-network plans as a way of negotiating down prices.

“As the pandemic continues and the economic pressures increase, the shift towards narrow network will likely continue and accelerate,” PwC Health Research Institute Leader Ben Isgur wrote in an email.

In particular, large companies with more than 5,000 employees are more likely to consider this strategy, with 25% offering narrow-network plans, according to a 2019 survey by PwC.

Walmart is a recent example. The company began offering “curated physician networks” in Arkansas, Florida and Texas in 2020. In March, the company indicated it would expand on its network strategies.

More companies are also expanding their telehealth services, in part a direct result of the pandemic. While this may not save them money in the short-term — most insurers are currently reimbursing the same for telehealth visits as in-office visits — in the long term, it is expected to reduce costs.

“Employers understand the benefits of telehealth including lower costs, easier access, less time away from work and a good consumer experience,” Isgur wrote. “89 percent of employers surveyed by PwC in spring 2019 offered telemedicine either through their medical vendor or a carve-out vendor, up from 56 percent in 2016. Over the past few months, we have seen telehealth accelerate even faster.”

A couple of ongoing factors could increase spending next year. Employers are adding mental health services to their health plans, and have seen increased demand for those services, especially in light of the pandemic. According to a recent survey by the Health Research Institute, 12% of individuals on employer plans said they had sought mental health services, and another 18% planned to do so.

Specialty drug spending is also expected to drive up costs, as the majority of pharmaceuticals planned for release next year are specialty drugs. This is not a new trend; of companies’ total drug spending, specialty drugs grew from 21% of the total in 2010 to 58% in 2017.

Many patients have delayed care as a result of the pandemic. Even as medical offices begin to offer in-person visits again, volumes are still down. It’s still too early to tell whether that will lead to a surge in spending next year due to postponed — but needed — procedures.

According to PwC, 22% of patients with employer-sponsored insurance have delayed care since March.

“We could see the population risk increase for 2021 if members with chronic conditions are not able to manage their health as effectively in 2020 due to Covid-19,” Amy Yao, senior vice president and chief actuary at Blue Shield of California, told PwC’s Health Research Institute.

 

 

 

 

Walmart to expand health centers to Arkansas this month

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/strategy/walmart-to-expand-health-centers-to-arkansas-this-month.html?utm_medium=email

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.”