Photo by Mike Mozart/Flickr
Shoppers can already find just about everything – from iPads to organic kale – at Walmart, and now the nation’s largest retailer is adding something else to its offerings: medical care. On Friday, Walmart opened the doors of a new health clinic in Palestine, Texas, making it the chain’s sixth in operation, with plans to open half a dozen more before January, the New York Times reports.
The existing clinics (all in Texas and South Carolina), each sees an average of 15 to 20 patients a day, who are charged $40 for a visit. For Walmart employees, there’s extra incentive to take advantage of the health centers: Associates and their dependents who are covered under the company’s own insurance (that’s 1.1 million workers) pay only $4 a visit. That means there’s still change left over to pick up a few items on the way out. “That is setting a new retail price in the health care industry,” Jennifer LaPerre, a company official, said last week.
Nurse practitioners, who can prescribe most of the same medications as doctors but receive less training, as well as medial assistants, will run the facilities. A physician supervisor is also on staff, although they’re strictly overseers and don’t tend to patients. Clinics will be open for 12 hours per day during the weekdays and another 8-plus hours on the weekends.
Unlike its competitors CVS, Walgreens, and Costco — often referred to as “retail clinics” — that offer services such as eye care and flu shots, Walmart is aiming to provide full primary care offerings, including chronic disease management. The system is similar to acute care establishments, tending to sprained ankles and treating minor cuts.
While the success of the concept remains to be seen, one thing’s for sure: The reading materials in the waiting room will always be timely and the lollipop jar fully stocked. It is Walmart, after all.