Health benefits

Walmart Enters Employer Health Benefits Space, Threatening Amazon, CVS

The news: Walmart in partnership with a health insurance company Translucent to enable Transcarent members to access prescription benefits, retail clinics, telehealth services, over-the-counter drugs and vaccines from Walmart, among other health benefits.

  • For the context, Transcarent offers personalized digital health services to self-insured employers. Its management team includes former CEO of Allscripts and founder of Livongo, Glen Tullman.

Why this might be an attractive option for employers: Employer health benefit costs are expected to increase 4.4% by the end of 2021, according to 2020 Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Plans.

  • Walmart is lower than most major retailers in drug prices and is also the cheapest place to buy over-the-counter drugs.
  • More recently, it launched its own brand of low-cost insulin, 58-75% cheaper than branded insulin products on the market, for example.
  • In addition, Walmart clinics offer comprehensive care (diagnosis, primary care, treatment options for chronic and acute conditions, and preventative care services) to prices lower than typical prices on the market.

Additionally, Walmart’s large geographic footprint and range of healthcare services provide competitive added value to employer benefit programs.

  • 90% people in the United States live within a 10-mile radius of a Walmart, so its ubiquitous health clinics could be accessible to employees across the United States.

And Walmart has expanded its range of health services offered, such as telehealth, primary care, and digital pharmacy services.

  • Walmart partners with electronic health records giant Epic in September, acquired telehealth provider MeMD in May, and won the prescription management platform CareZone Last June.
  • It also plans to open 22 new clinics by the end of this year (in addition to its 20 existing clinics).

Why Walmart is entering the employer space: The Employer Marketplace will allow Walmart to capture more healthcare consumers faster than its direct-to-consumer model: 40% of American adults get their health insurance from their employer.

Although this is Walmart’s first foray into the employer health market, Walmart has gradually expanded its insurance footprint over the past year:

  • It launched its insurance business last October and has grown its Medicare footprint through partnerships with Oak Street Health and Clover Health.
  • Plunging into the employer-sponsored healthcare market seems like the next logical step for the retail giant.

The overview: Walmart’s new partnership means it becomes another challenger to other retailers positioning themselves as one-stop healthcare companies for employer customers.

For example, Amazon care (Amazon’s virtual care business) became widely available to employer customers in the United States in May.

  • In addition to virtual care, he could also offer Amazon Pharmacy services, his Amazon Halo laptop or even his HIPAA-compliant Alexa voice assistant to make an appointment or monitor health.

In another example, CVS operates its insurance business Etna which operates primarily through employer-paid health plans.

  • This spear its own virtual primary care business targeting self-insured employer clients in August, Virtual primary care Aetna.