Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rx: Wal-Mart's Healthcare Plan - $50 Office Visits, But Those Unable to Pay Will Be Treated Anyway

BANGOR, Maine — Coming soon to a Wal-Mart near you: walk-in health care. In Bangor, Monday marked the first day of business at The Clinic at Wal-Mart in the recently opened Stillwater Avenue Supercenter. Additional clinics will open in coming months at stores in Brewer, Palmyra and Presque Isle. Although Arkansas-based Wal-Mart has in-store clinics in many other states, the four northern Maine clinics announced Monday are the first in Maine.

Clinicians at the Wal-Mart clinics — nurse practitioners and physician assistants — can perform physical exams for participation in sports, administer tetanus shots and flu vaccines, and test for high blood sugar, strep throat, urinary tract infections and pregnancy. They will prescribe some medications, but not narcotics or psychoactive drugs.

No appointments are accepted. Patients who have to wait to be seen and are well enough to shop will be issued an electronic pager to alert them when one of the two exam rooms is available. The clinics will be open seven days a week, including some evening hours.

The Clinic at Wal-Mart accepts all insurance coverage as well as MaineCare and Medicare. Those paying cash will be charged $50 for a standard office visit, and more for any testing or vaccines. Those unable to pay will be treated and referred to Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems' charity care office to arrange discounts or installment billing.


At 11/10/2009 4:02 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Hmmm, interesting idea...

I wonder if Walmart considers this service as a loss leader?

Did you happen to note the online poll results so far?

I wonder what its overhead costs are relative to the Walmart as a whole per store?

Still it seems like a pretty good idea...

At 11/10/2009 4:19 PM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

These These clinics are a partnershio between Eastern Maine Medical Center and Walmart.I have a low opinion generallly of Wal-Mart but this is a good idea. These clinics can hopefully help a lot people who would seek medical care at emergency rooms but don't have an emergency -- a help to lowering healthcare costs.

Juandos, nice link to the on-line poll in Bangor, Maine with interesting results so far.

At 11/10/2009 5:38 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

So what's the point? Could it be that when you eliminate insurance companies and their near-monopolies from the equation, the cost for health care plummets? . . . Treating colds and handing out band aids is easy, but it's things like surgery, major life-threatening diseases and the the exorbitant cost of treating them that are the real issues comprising our health care crisis. When Wal-Mart creates real competition that addresses those issues with lower prices, then we're getting somewhere.

At 11/10/2009 6:56 PM, Anonymous American Delight said...

Wal-Mart is a healthcare innovator. They'll probably be one of the first major employers that can provide onsite clinic access or discounts to their own employees (even part-timers) as a benefit of employment.

But even then, the Wal-Mart haters will say that Wal-Mart should give full health insurance to the average greeter or PT cashier. They'll never win over their crazed critics.

At 11/10/2009 8:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Combine this with a high deductible HSA and you have a very viable healthcare insurance model. Low intensity care at Walmart or equivalent and high intensity care at your family doctor's office. The AMA might not like the competition but the future is here, unless congress gets involved and are concercied by the every present lobbyists.

At 11/10/2009 8:56 PM, Anonymous Dr. T said...

"The AMA might not like the competition..."

Who cares. The AMA represents fewer than 25% of practicing physicians. Most of us dislike the AMA and disagree with its stances.

The WalMart plan is excellent, and I bet most of my colleagues will agree. Most physicians are overbooked and overworked (60-90 hour work weeks). Numerous patients have simple problems that take time but don't pay well. Losing some of that business to WalMart allows more time with complex cases that are intellectually challenging and better reimbursed. The WalMart plan may mean a small income reduction, but 10-20 fewer hours at work is a nice compensation.

At 11/10/2009 9:11 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Over 100,000 pages of government regulations created enormous inefficienies and raised costs substantially. So, of course, prices had to rise, one way or another. Current health care reform is the final nail in the coffin to bankrupt the private sector and take it over.

At 11/11/2009 12:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To make the Wal-mart clinics really work we need electronic medical records like the have in Belgium. With that then when you have an urgent condition and you go to the clinic, you don't have to fill out a 10+ page form, since your info is online.
Then we move to a paradigm where the primary care physician takes care of checkups and chronic issues since these can be pre-scheduled in a lot of cases. For the bad cold, flu etc the wal-mart clinic can take care of that and the primary care Dr gets told what the clinic did.
If done properly this allows the primary care physician to work typical 5 day hours, and the clinic to take the night and weekend urgencies that are not emergencies.
Of course the AMA says that the clinic might miss the 1 in 100 case but then would the Dr do much better in 15 mins.

At 11/11/2009 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like socialism to me..

At 11/11/2009 7:48 PM, Blogger Bruce Hall said...

The ultimate self-perpetuating business... people with viruses come in the store and, while they are waiting for treatment, walk around the store and spread the viruses to other customers who may come back for medical care later.

Come on WalMart... give out 10% off coupons for customers with WalMart charge cards who get infected at their friendly WalMart grocery aisle.

I'm not sure I'd be tempted to shop at a store that is intentionally bringing in sick people.


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