Walmart is modestly scaling up its foray into health care clinics, and the news couldn’t be better for the future of health care. The NYT has a valuable profile of the company’s growing health care clout, and the opportunities—and challenges—it offers. Walmart already has five clinics nationwide, with a six opening today in Texas. It plans to expand to six more locations by the end of the year:
With its vast rural footprint, Walmart is positioning its primary care clinics in areas where doctors are scarce, and where medical care, with or without insurance, can be prohibitively expensive. If they succeed, the company said, it is prepared to open even more […]The Walmart primary care clinics charge patients $40 a visit; employees at the company and their dependents who are covered under its own insurance pay $4 a visit. (Walmart says that more than half of its 1.1 million employees currently receive health care through the company.) While it accepts Medicare, it does not currently accept third-party insurance, although it is exploring the option, a spokeswoman, Danit Marquardt, said, adding that it is starting to enroll some of its stores in Medicaid.
As we’ve written, many studies have found clinics can give the same quality of care physician offices and better are than ERs—but for much cheaper. And clinics are not the only growing service delivery approach that saves money: Home visits do that, too. NPR reports on a new study finding that when teams of providers make frequent house calls to elderly patients with chronic conditions, everyone benefits.In this study, 722 older patients with “congestive heart failure, stroke, diabetes or dementia” received visits from a team composed of “a physician, a nurse practitioner, licensed practical nurses and social workers.” As a result, the patients took 20 percent fewer trips to the ER, and saved Medicare $8,477 per person. Since elderly Americans with chronic conditions account for a very large percentage of our health care costs, finding ways of bringing down that cost is a top priority. With methods of delivering care like big box clinics and home visits picking up steam, we could be taking one big step towards sustainability.