Walmart to pilot new healthcare benefit initiatives

Walmart is aiming to test some new pilot healthcare programs around the country to help give employees easier access to providers and improve worker health and wellness.

The company will pilot a suite of new services across different pockets of the country as part of its 2020 healthcare plan in select markets. Among the programs are employees featured providers, expanding telehealth services and personal healthcare assistant benefits.

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Beginning next year, the nation’s largest private employer will offer employees a list of featured providers in an effort to help take “the guesswork out of finding highly-rated doctors.”

For this pilot, Walmart will be working with data analytics company Embold Health to identify quality local provider in eight specialties: primary care, cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, obstetrics, oncology, orthopedics and pulmonology.

To generate the data, Embold identifies three aspects of care delivery:

  • Appropriateness: Was the care medically necessary? Has the care been shown to offer benefits based on the latest scientific research?
  • Effectiveness: Was the care delivered following the latest scientific guidelines?
  • Cost: Was the care delivered cost-efficiently?

Embold will apply these measures to its data set and identify physicians who consistently deliver high-quality care. This pilot will begin in the Orlando/Tampa, Dallas/Fort Worth and Northwest Arkansas regions.

“One of the challenges employers face in managing their healthcare costs is that healthcare is delivered locally and change is not scalable,” Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health, noted earlier this year. “It’s a market-by-market effort. Employers are turning to market-specific solutions to drive meaningful changes in the healthcare delivery system.”

In fact, the healthcare group’s recent annual survey found 51% of employers said they were going to put in place more virtual care solutions and a have a more focused strategy on high-cost claims (39%) as their top initiatives for 2020.

In addition, employees located in North and South Carolina will gain access to virtualized personal healthcare assistants as a go-to source for all their medical needs, from billing questions to understanding diagnoses. The concierge-like benefit will work via a website, phone number, and app.

“Once again, Walmart has taken the mantle of leadership in pursuing a bold and innovative strategy to provide its associates with access to high quality and affordable health coverage,” Jim Klein, president and CEO of the American Benefits Council, said of the initiative.

With a tight labor market, Walmart has been beefing up its benefit offerings over the past few years to remain a competitive player in recruiting and retaining talent. Last year, the employer rolled out an education benefit to help subsidized classes toward degrees in business or supply-chain management, online or on-site, at one of three colleges: the University of Florida; Brandman University in Irvine, Calif.; and Bellevue University in Bellevue, Neb.

The company also rolled out a suite of financial-wellness services, including an on-demand-pay option, to serve as a “safety net for emergencies.”

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