Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Paging Dr. Sam

Sam Walton was a visionary of sorts. He dared to take on (what was then) the big boys. Sears, J C Penney and K-Mart were fair game to him and ripe for a trip to the retail woodshed.

But somehow I doubt he ever envisioned expanding the concept of discount retailer in to the world of health care.

In a bit of a twist . . .

In the same week in late October that Walmart announced it would stop offering health insurance benefits to new part-time employees, the retailer sent out a request for information seeking partners to help it "dramatically ... lower the cost of healthcare ... by becoming the largest provider of primary healthcare services in the nation."

Seems a bit schizophrenic don't you think?

And there is this observation.

Will expansion of in-store clinics, for example, further fragment care in the U.S. by drawing patients away from their established primary care doctors? Would patients who need specialists fall through the cracks? Will patients seen by nurses or physician assistants at in-store clinics have just as good outcomes as those seen by doctors in more traditional practices?
"Maybe Walmart can deliver a lot of this stuff more cheaply because it is an expert at doing this with other types of widgets, but health care is not a widget and managing individual human beings is not nearly as simple as selling commercial products to consumers," says Ann O'Malley, a physician and senior health researcher at the Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonpartisan Washington think tank.
Sometimes cheaper is better and sometimes it is simply cheaper.

You get what you pay for.

Readers of InsureBlog know that we are proponents of streamlined health care, especially when it comes to primary care, but I am not sure the world of medicine is ready to mix with the People of Wal-Mart.

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