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Walmart’s New Employee Healthcare Sets a Golden Example for Companies

Employers pay for their employees’ healthcare both directly and indirectly. They pay for it directly through their health plans, and they pay for it indirectly through absenteeism and diminished productivity when employees are sick and inadequately treated. Consequently, a good health plan is vital for both employers and employees alike.

As the largest private-sector employer in the country, Walmart has famously been a trailblazer in providing superior health benefits for its workers. For example, its Centers of Excellence Program that began six years ago covers the cost of flying individuals with serious conditions to out-of-state hospitals with top-notch doctors. In addition, Walmart recently announced a rollout of a pilot program involving a small, curated network of high-quality providers. In this new healthcare plan, Walmart will work with analytics company Embold Health to handpick in-network doctors based on their histories of care and quality of results. For example, for obstetricians, the program will evaluate their rates of performing a cesarean section – which carries much greater costs and risks of complications – and choose providers who have lower rates of the practice.

Starting January 1, 2020, the program will cover Walmart and Sam’s Club workers in Orlando and Tampa, Florida, the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area and Northwest Arkansas. The plan will reduce the number of physician choices for participants, but what it lacks in numbers, it presumably makes up for in better healthcare and cost savings through increased presenteeism and efficiency at work. Additionally, individuals can still visit out-of-network physicians if they choose, though it does come with a higher copay.

On top of this new health plan, Walmart is also testing a “personal health care assistant” service in North and South Carolina. Users can use this concierge service for help with navigating the healthcare system, finding a quality provider and understanding their diagnosis and treatment.

While Walmart’s move may seem exceptional, these values may be representative of the future of corporations, according to the Business Roundtable. Most likely in response to global dissent over income inequality and inadequate working conditions, companies are beginning to shift their focus from revenues and profit margins to investment in community and employee wellbeing. This may only be the beginning, but we look forward to watching more companies follow in Walmart’s path.

By Karena Yan

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