Walmart continues foray into health care
The big box retailer is taking another step into the lucrative world of American health care.
The American health care system is infamous for its expensive, byzantine nature. Without universal health insurance, many American citizens are left to fend for themselves in a complex maze of providers, employers, and doctor networks. Due to serious gaps in the health care system, there is ample opportunity for non-traditional players to enter the space with competitive offerings and services.
That is why Walmart announced last week a further expansion of its “Walmart Health” service. Walmart Health will be available in Florida starting next year. The Sunshine State will be the third state where the offering is available, following Georgia and Arkansas. Among the planned services to be available are:
- Low, transparent pricing for key healthcare services, regardless of insurance status.
- Care delivered by qualified medical professionals, including physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists, counselors and optometrists.
- State-of-the-art facilities that offer full-service primary and urgent care, labs, x-ray and diagnostics, counseling, dental, optical and hearing services all in one central facility.
- Specialized community health resources, online education and in-center workshops to educate the community about preventive health and wellness.
While Walmart is rarely the first name that comes to mind when one thinks of “health”, the retailer clearly feels that people will be drawn to cheap, effective health services at its all-in-one stores.
The move also reflects the continued pursuit for new business by top American companies. Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business and noted observer of the American business landscape, recently discussed the need for the biggest American companies, the Apples and Googles of the world, to go “big game hunting.” If these companies want to maintain and increase their sky-high valuations, they must seek out new, and more importantly big, industries. “People ask if big tech wants to get into education and health care, and I say no, they have to get into education and health care. They have no choice,” says Galloway.
This trend is evident all across America. With annual health care spending in the United States over $3.5 trillion dollars, top American companies view the sector as a prime target to sustain their ambitions (and meet shareholder expectations). Amazon has teamed up with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to revamp health care for its employees. Google acquired Fitbit for $2 billion. Microsoft is incredibly active in the space. Walmart is now following suit with “Walmart Health.” So whether it is via sleeping data, prescription delivery companies, or health centers at traditional big box stores, the biggest names in American business are seeking a slice of the lucrative health care pie.
Traditional health insurers are now having to compete with these new entrants for health care dollars in the US. That is why we continue to witness innovation and ecosystem growth. Back in February, we spoke with Dr. Robin Kiera about the state of the insurance world. He said, “A lot of challenger insurers - or insurtech as they are called - disrupted the market. Indeed, a lot of challengers pivoted their business models and are now enabling insurers creating a win-win situation. Insurtechs get access to valuable clients and funds. Insurers receive desperately needed new technology and knowledge.” Developing new products, establishing partnerships, and creating ecosystems are the tools being employed by insurers to stay present and relevant in their customers’ lives.
Of course, health care is especially germane during the coronavirus era. This was noted by Sean Slovenski, SVP and President, Health & Wellness, Walmart U.S, in their announcement last week: “The combined crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic recession, and subsequent loss of health insurance for millions of Americans have reinforced the vulnerabilities of our healthcare system.” Given the precarious situation in the U.S., citizens are likely to turn to any health provider that can deliver cheap, reliable, and practical services. Whether that is a traditional insurer or an unorthodox new entrant will be of little importance.