A young female physician, wearing glasses and carrying a stethoscope around her neck.
Walmart appears ready to become the nation's largest health care provider. (Photo Credit: CC BY/DIAC Images/Flickr)

Affordable health care is becoming an increasingly foreign concept in the U.S. Leave it to Walmart to attempt to bridge the gap with low prices, reports the Huffington Post. The nation’s largest retailer may soon become “the largest provider of primary care services in the nation,” according to NPR and Kaiser Health News.

Walmart seeking partners

Various sources indicate that Walmart began seeking partners last month for a health care-related venture. The company already has a partnership with Adena Urgent Care, according to some reports. While Reuters reports that Walmart Senior Vice President John Agwunobi has denied reports that the retail giant is positioning itself to become “a national, integrated, low-cost primary care health care platform,” the retailer’s recent moves are hard to ignore and easy to interpret. NPR suggests that Walmart’s request indicates a desire to bring new services to The Clinic at Walmart system, possibly including vaccinations and urine tests.

At the same time, Walmart said it plans to cut health benefits for part-time workers.

A highly profitable sector

Health care is a lucrative market, and if Walmart wanted to participate, few would be surprised. Considering projections that health care costs will amount to one-fifth of the entire U.S. economy by the end of the decade, many businesses will look to capitalize.

Walmart’s market penetration would give it a built-in advantage. The prospect of one-stop health care shopping for consumers who buy almost everything else there would be appealing on many levels. Significant among them would be that the pool of primary care physicians in the U.S. will shrink by 21,000 before 2015, according to estimates by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Expanded Walmart medical clinics would also serve as competition against various drug stores that already offer some medical services in-house, such as some CVS and Walgreens locations.

Will Walmart offer medical services?



The Clinic at Walmart: http://www.walmart.com/cp/Walmart-Clinics/1078904

Huffington Post: http://huff.to/viqNeV

Reuters: www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/09/us-walmart-healthcare-idUSTRE7A86LP20111109

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