business news in context, analysis with attitude

Walmart, looking for ways to cut its employee-related health care costs and improve its bottom line, plans to test a series of related initiatives next year in several markets.

Among the pilot programs, according to CNBC is one in which Walmart "will connect patients with local doctors in an effort to cut down on its workers relying on word of mouth or social media to find a doctor."

Axiosnotes that Walmart will establish quality metrics for doctors and then "will steer employees to those doctors for 8 specialties: primary care, cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, obstetrics, oncology, orthopedics and pulmonology."

And it will pilot "a concierge service to help employees navigate billing and appointments, but also finding a quality provider, understanding a diagnosis and addressing other complex questions."

Other pilot programs, according to CNBC:

• "In Colorado, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, Walmart will expand a program that allows patients to video chat with a doctor from home for $4 per chat."

• "The retailer will also offer workers access to fitness clubs for $9 per bi-weekly pay period and add a predictable co-pay of $35 for every visit to a primary care physician under its most popular medical plan. These services will be available nationwide."

The story notes that with a workforce of 1.4 million, Walmart's health care-related expenses are among its biggest budget items after wages.
KC's View:
Add this to the number of decisions that Walmart has made in recent months that would have been impossible to have imagined just a few years ago. But the world changes, and companies like Walmart have to move in new and unexpected directions if they are to be an employer of choice … the investments they make in the short-term will, they hope, pay off and save them money on a variety of levels in the long-term.