Walmart in new retail-healthcare tie-in

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Walmart in new retail-healthcare tie-in

By Marianne Wilson - 08/20/2018
Walmart is partnering with a health insurer to expand access to, and lower costs of, over-the-counter medications and other related items for older consumers.

The discounter has teamed up with Anthem, one of the nation’s leading health benefits companies, to provide discounts on over-the-counter medications, products and services. The new Anthem-Walmart program, which will launch in January 2019, will enable consumers who are enrolled in Anthem’s affiliated Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to use OTC plan allowances to purchase OTC medications and health-related items, such as first aid supplies, support braces, and pain relievers at Walmart’s 4,700 stores and on Walmart.com.

The deal comes during a year which has seen an explosion of retail-healthcare tie-ins, starting in January with Amazon’s announcement that it was partnering with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to form an independent health care company for their U.S. employees. Other major tie-ins include CVS’ $69 billion acquisition of Aetna and, most recently, Best Buy’s acquisition of GreatCall, a provider of emergency response devices and related digital home healthcare services to seniors. It also follows speculation that Walmart was in talks to expand its relationship with health insurer Humana, including a possible merger.

The Walmart-Anthem collaboration is expected to improve access to these items while significantly reducing the out-of-pocket costs for those enrolled in Anthem’s affiliated MA plans, according to Walmart. It is also likely to drive increased traffic to Walmart stores.

“Walmart is committed to making healthcare more affordable and accessible, and we are in constant pursuit of new ways to deliver on this commitment,” said Sean Slovenski, senior VP, health and wellness, Walmart U.S.

“We are thrilled to be working with Anthem to provide its Medicare Advantage members with convenient access to our broad assortment of high-quality over-the counter products – all available at everyday low prices.”

With more than 90% of Americans living within 10 miles of a Walmart store and the retailer offering a number of services to ease consumers’ lives, including free two-day shipping with Walmart.com orders $35 or more (without a membership fee), which will also be available in the Anthem-Walmart program, this new initiative is expected to be important to older adults who seek more value for their money and a convenient shopping experience. According to the Social Security Administration, nearly a quarter of married seniors and four out of 10 unmarried older adults rely on their Social Security benefit, which averages just over $1,400 a month, for at least 90% of their income.