Walmart Tests Low-Cost ‘Doc-In-A-Box’ Walk-In Clinics

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A small number of Walmart stores in the South are serving as laboratories for an idea the company hopes to expand throughout the Nation: low-cost, walk-in healthcare clinics that focus on minor medical needs, preventive treatments and management for chronic illnesses.

The clinics, simply called “Walmart Care Clinics,” will offer $40 walk-ins for anyone except the company’s own employees, who — so long as they participate in the company’s healthcare plan — can use the clinics for $4 per visit.

Depending on where you live, you may have already become accustomed to seeing some type of health clinic at the nearby Walmart. But until this year, all of the clinics inside those stores have been owned and operated by outside contractors who lease the space. This new experiment, on the other hand, is all Walmart.

Although the clinics that have opened so far are staffed by nurse practitioners, the range of services they provide is similar to that offered by a general practitioner physician’s office: lab work, shots, hypertension and diabetes management, and referrals to outside specialists.

“We have a nickname for these things. We call them docs in a box,” Columbia, S.C.-based Medical consultant Lynn Bailey told WIS-TV News last week. “They’re actually quite good at managing diabetics and hypertension and high cholesterol.”

The first Walmart Care Clinic opened in Copperas Cove, Texas, in April. Since then, the company has opened a few more in Texas, and it should have two more locations at a pair of Walmart stores in South Carolina. According to The Dallas Morning News, Walmart’s goal is to have a dozen clinics operating by the end of 2014.

Aside from whatever profits the company might be able to glean by appealing to the enormous volume of customers who inevitably end up using one of the many adjunct services at Walmart stores (tax prep, banking, vision care, tire and lube, florists and more), the company may be acting out of necessity in order to get a handle on surging employee healthcare costs under the Affordable Care Act.

“With more than 1.3 million associates at Walmart nationwide, the retailer reportedly faces an estimated $330 million in added costs this year because more workers have signed up for insurance to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act,” reports WFAA-TV News in Dallas. “Walmart officials believe they can save a lot of money with in-house clinics, which will be staffed by nurse practitioners.”

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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