Retail giant Wal-Mart continues to expand its service offerings in the health care arena with a national health fair slated for Oct. 10 in 4,400 of its U.S. stores. It’s the retailer’s latest effort in an ongoing push to provide access and information to its customers, according to Michelle Gloecker, executive vice president of health & wellness and consumables for Walmart U.S.
Gloecker said the retailer understands how difficult gaining access to health care can be in many communities which is why this health fair will offer free blood glucose screenings, blood pressure checks and vision screening. In addition, more than 10 immunizations, including the flu shot can be administered for an added fee.
“We anticipate 3,000 customers will learn they have diabetes and another 7,000 will discover they have high blood pressure from the screenings completed at the Oct. 10 health fair,” Gloeckler said during the media press conference held Tuesday (Oct. 6).
She said there is no appointment needed for the screenings the day of the health fair.
“Since the $4 prescription became an industry standard in 2007, Wal-Mart has been committed to reducing the cost of health care and providing healthier food choices so that our customers can live better. This is an extension to that commitment,” Gloeckler said.
Wal-Mart said last year that its goal was to be the number one provider of access to health care information which is why it teamed up with DirectHealth.com, an online health insurance comparison site and an independent licensed health insurance agency. Gloecker said this year DirectHealth will take part in the health fair.
Consumers will have the opportunity to meet with DirectHealth.com agents who can help them navigate the more than 70,000 insurance exchanges to find the one that is right for them. The agents will also help those aged 65 sign up for Medicare.
BUSINESS OF HEALTH
Health and Wellness is a huge category for Walmart U.S. comprising 11% of the retailer's $31.68 billion in total U.S. sales in fiscal 2015. But profits were less than expected in the recent quarterly earnings reported in August.
Gloecker said the health fair and heath education initiatives are not a direct response to the lower-than-expected pharmacy reimbursements mentioned by management in the August earnings call.
“There is one thing we can’t put a price on and that’s the health of our customers. We realize we play an important role in making healthcare available to millions and helping millions put healthy meals on the table. This is a responsibility we take seriously,” Gloeckler said. “From managing diabetes to running your first 5K and simply putting a healthy dinner on the table, we’re equipping our customers with solutions for total health management which spans from nutrition, fitness, preventative care and treatment.”
The City Wire asked Gloecker for an update on the retailer’s medical clinic initiative launched in the summer of 2014.
“I am happy to share that on Nov. 11 we will open a new health clinic in Royce City, Texas which will make our eighth clinic in Texas. We have five in South Carolina and five in Georgia as well,” Gloecker said.
She said Wal-Mart is happy with the 18 clinics it has opened in the past year.
“In September we looked at our total clinic visits and found that the repeat visitors outnumbered the new patients which tells us that the communities and our employees are supporting this effort,” Gloecker said.
Wal-Mart run clinics allow employees covered by their medical plan to visit the for a $4 co-pay. The general public can use the clinic for $40 co-pay. A traditional doctor’s visit without insurance costs anywhere from $190 to $250 nationwide, and that does not include any lab work.
She said while there are just 18 clinics open, the retailer does provide health screening kiosks in more than 2,200 stores. This kiosk allows customers to check their blood pressure, measure body mass index and perform vision screening. The retailer said it will continue to look for opportunities to expand health care access where it is most needed.
Gloeckler said in some rural communities, the upcoming health fair might be the only chance some have for important screenings or information about insurance options. She said insurance education resources offered in store are helpful at a stressful time in our customer’s lives and it also helps build trust with customers.