NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

WAL-MART'S RX FOR HEALTH CARE

April 25, 2006

With its recent announcement that it will open medical clinics in its super-centers, Wal-Mart is truly set to become the one-stop place to shop, says Rik Kirkland, Fortune senior-editor-at-large.

RediClinics -- which are staffed by nurse practitioners licensed to prescribe drugs -- offer a flat $45 fee for "Get Well" visits that include all the tests necessary to diagnose and prescribe for ailments like colds, flu, strep throat and pink eye, says Kirkland:

  • If you're uninsured, like half of the clinic's customers, it's a big saving over the $95 that a doctor's visit would cost and a huge savings over the $400 an emergency room might charge.
  • "Stay Well" screenings for basic preventive medicine -- like a blood test to determine a cholesterol profile with glucose -- only cost $29 instead of the retail price of $65.
  • Even though Wal-Mart is only collecting rent money, it views the clinics as an important addition to its stores since they will boost the retail chain's appeal and help fulfill its self-proclaimed mission to be a champion for working families.
  • This mix of transparent prices, electronic efficiency and convenient hours looks, for now at least, like a winning formula.

However, there is a limit to the dent the clinics can put in the nation's swelling health-care tab, says Kirkland:

  • For example, these clinics are not set up to treat the people with serious chronic illnesses.
  • Just like every other company, Wal-Mart is getting slammed by the rising cost of health care.
  • Critics are also trying to force Wal-Mart to adopt more generous benefit standards.

Source: Rik Kirkland, "Wal-Mart's RX for health care," Fortune, April 3, 2006.


 

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