We all know that Walmart is known for “it’s very low prices,” on everything from groceries to consumer electronics. While the left and the right continue to fight over healthcare, the superstore chain is extending that philosophy to things like eye care and doctor’s visits.
While another major retailer, Amazon, just announced it was cutting healthcare benefits to thousands of its workers, Walmart is entering the “low cost healthcare” marketplace, with a strong emphasis on the “low cost.” The retail giant recently opened its very first of what are expected to be many, Walmart Health in-store clinics. The first such clinic opened in Dallas, Georgia, in September. It offers primary medical, dental, vision, and mental health care. Though Walmart has not yet made public any plans for a national roll-out of similar facilities, the new clinic in the Atlanta suburbs appears to be a pilot for a new way to provide basic healthcare to Americans.
Just like walking through the aisles of the store, and seeing the low prices jump out at you, perhaps the most unique aspect of the new Walmart Health clinic, is that consumers will know exactly what each service costs.
The company has published a no-nonsense price list that clearly specifies what you will pay at the clinic for various healthcare services. According to the list, basic check-ups will cost $30 (or $20 for kids) while getting tested for the flu will cost $20. Having a routine vision exam will be $40. The clinic will be staffed with medical professionals capable of handling everything from immunizations to counseling sessions to lab testing to X-rays.
It’s a big step forward for Walmart, but one that makes sense. Walmart already operates one of the country’s largest pharmacies, and it has opened smaller clinics in about 19 stores, that offer flu shots and some other basic healthcare. Those smaller clinics average about 1,500 square feet each, while the new Walmart Health location in Georgia is over 10,000 square feet, according to Forbes.
A Disruptive Advancement in Healthcare
Over the last few years, a number of what have become known as “disruptive” technologies have been introduced. They are thus called, because of the “disruptive” way they have completely changed the way something has been done for years. Smartphones are a good example of one, crowdsharing apps like Uber are another.
Similarly, the introduction of Walmart Health, may be “disrupting” the way healthcare is delivered in America, but in a similar good way, as game changing advancements such as the internet and smartphones have.
According to Forbes, CVS and Walgreens already offer small-scale clinics in some retail locations, and both have plans to expand those services in the coming years. If Walmart enters the healthcare marketplace in such a big way, it could be a huge victory for competition and convenience.
“Walmart Health is proof that the private sector can deliver high-quality, transparently priced healthcare services without government intervention,” says Elise Amez-Droz, a healthcare policy associate at the Mercatus Center, a think tank based at George Mason University. “The best way to cater to our varying needs is to let patients have the final say in their healthcare decisions, shopping for better value and reaping the benefits in the form of better care and savings.”
Access to care is an often overlooked part of the national debate over healthcare, which tends to focus on providing insurance rather than healthcare itself. Insurance is important, of course, but the best insurance in the world is useless if there are no providers nearby, or high deductibles and co-pays, make care too costly, even with insurance.
Bringing Walmart’s “everyday low prices” to healthcare, could be the first step in changing all of that.