Walmart is tackling its $6 billion healthcare bill by pushing employees to see telehealth doctors – DAVID RAUDALES


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Walmart is tackling its $6 billion healthcare bill by pushing employees to see telehealth doctors

Walmart is offering virtual care benefits through a provider called Included Health.

Included Health

Walmart is expanding its virtual health care service to employees across the US.The move covers approximately 1 million workers and their families and could lower costs by 11%.Roughly half of traditional health plan participants do not receive primary care, due in part to lack of access.

More Walmart workers across the US will soon have access to virtual health care services as the country’s largest employer expands the offering to all states starting October 14, the company said Tuesday.

The retail giant employs 1.6 million people in the US, with roughly 1 million workers and their families enrolled in its health plan, Bloomberg reported.

Employees in 21 states were previously eligible for the telehealth benefit through a provider called Included Health, which rolled out its virtual primary care offering in 2020.

“Against national primary and mental healthcare shortages and persistent healthcare price growth, Walmart has tested the role Virtual Primary Care can play in addressing some of our country’s most significant healthcare challenges,” Included Health co-founder and CEO Owen Tripp said in a statement.

Full-time employees and part-time workers who average at least 30 hours per week are eligible to enroll in the company’s health plan, and the company said virtual mental health services are available to all workers and their families, regardless of their enrollment.

Most virtual visits will cost Walmart employees nothing.

Included Health

Walmart said that prior to 2020, about half of its employees and their families were not receiving primary care, in large part due to lack of access to providers. The figure is in line with the national average.

The company owns more than 5,300 stores across the US, in some cases far from hospitals or clinics. Roughly 90,000 workers live in areas that have a shortage of primary care providers, Walmart’s vice president of physical and emotional wellbeing, Lisa Woods, told Bloomberg.

Data from the initial round of states found that about 30% of the patient used the service for preventive care or to manage a chronic condition, and patients saw significant improvement in blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Most virtual visits will cost patients nothing, and Walmart stands to see considerable savings too. Routine care and early intervention enabled by telehealth led to an estimated 11% reduction in the total cost of care in the pilot states.

Walmart’s US health plan spent more than $6 billion last year on claims, premiums, and administrative costs, Bloomberg reported, citing Labor Department filings. So that means a potential savings of nearly $700 million.

Walmart said options for digestive health and physical therapy are included in this expansion of service, and that some basic in-home lab visits will be available starting next year.

Read the original article on Business Insider