Wal­mart to test new health care ser­vices for work­ers

The Saline Courier - - NEWS - As­so­ci­ated Press

NEW YORK — Wal­mart is rolling out a health care pi­lot pro­gram for its em­ploy­ees that will come up with a cu­rated list of high qual­ity providers but of­fer fewer choices than un­der the cur­rent plan.

Through the pro­gram, Wal­mart will help em­ploy­ees con­nect with lo­cal doc­tors in ar­eas like pri­mary care, car­di­ol­ogy and ob­stet­rics. It is work­ing with Nashville­based data an­a­lyt­ics com­pany Em­bold Health, which will cull through vast amounts of data from pub­lic and pri­vate in­sur­ance plans to come up with rec­om­mended providers based on ef­fec­tive­ness and cost­ef­fi­ciency. Wal­mart will in turn use that data to cu­rate a list for em­ploy­ees.

“It’s a thought­ful ap­proach to a goal of bet­ter health and bet­ter health care,” said Adam Stavisky, se­nior vice pres­i­dent US ben­e­fits, Wal­mart dur­ing a me­dia call on Wed­nes­day.

The pro­gram will cover

U.S. Wal­mart and Sam’s Club work­ers in Or­lando and Tampa Florida, the Dal­las-fort Worth, Texas area and North­west Arkansas start­ing Jan. 1. A hu­man per­sonal health care as­sis­tant will also be avail­able for work­ers in North and South Carolina as a go-to re­source on billing ques­tions, mak­ing an ap­point­ment and un­der­stand­ing a di­ag­no­sis.

The goal is for the ser­vices to even­tu­ally be avail­able to the 1 mil­lion Wal­mart and Sam’s Club work­ers and fam­ily mem­bers on the com­pany’s health in­sur­ance pro­gram. The re­tailer also plans to share its prac­tices with other com­pa­nies.

The down­side of the pro­gram is that em­ploy­ees will be faced with fewer doc­tor choices. Wal­mart says that work­ers can use doc­tors who are not on the com­pany’s cu­rated list but it will cost more.

Wal­mart ex­ec­u­tives say it’s hop­ing to re­move a mean­ing­ful chunk of un­nec­es­sary health care cost for the com­pany and its em­ploy­ees. Over­all, em­ploy­ers that pro­vide health cov­er­age have long been frus­trated by costs that rise faster than in­fla­tion and wages.

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