In 1970, healthcare spending in the United States totaled $74.1 billion and ballooned to $1.4 trillion by 2000. Two decades later, these costs tripled, tallying in at $4.1 trillion. From 2019 to 2020, health care spending shot up by 9.7 percent, more than double the 2018 to 2019 figure. What these stats make clear is healthcare spending is on the rise, and Americans need more affordable healthcare options.
One way to provide these options involves shifting towards convenient care centers. A trend underscored by Walmart and UnitedHealth Group’s recent announcement that they have joined forces in a long-term, value-based healthcare partnership.
Here’s everything you need to know about this development and what it says about the future of healthcare in America.
Walmart’s Foray into Healthcare
The healthcare industry is set for a shakeup if big retail has its way, and one of the companies spearheading this effort is Walmart. The company boasts more than 200 million weekly customers and hopes to provide many of them with better medical options.
Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon explains, “We’re on a journey to transform health care, connecting more people to the right care at the right time — at a cost that makes sense. This collaboration puts the patient at the center of health care by leveraging the strength and complementary skill sets of our two companies to accelerate access to quality care.”
Changing the Healthcare Landscape
Walmart already places a substantial focus on medically underserved communities (MUCs) nationwide. To date, the company has located 4,000 stores within designated MUCs, providing these communities with much-needed resources and information regarding social determinants of well-being and access to healthcare.
According to Dr. Cheryl Pegus, executive vice president of health and wellness at Walmart, “The people who work at Walmart — they are from these communities, they are trusted in these communities. The way that we partner is we first listen. We hear the needs of our own associates, we partner with leaders in the community, and then we provide service.”
Next-Level Strategic Partnership
Walmart and UnitedHealth Group have committed to a ten-year partnership with two primary goals: 1) facilitating value-based care adoption among Walmart clinicians and 2) launching a new Medicare Advantage Plan.
The decade-long agreement underscores the dedication both companies have to their endeavor. As David Carmouche, M.D., a senior vice president at Walmart, explains, “This isn’t a pilot. It’s a long-term commitment to work together to extend value-based care models to seniors and Medicare beneficiaries across multiple geographies over time.”
A New Direction
Walmart and UnitedHealth Group believe this new direction will allow them to reach hundreds of thousands of Medicare Advantage subscribers. What’s more, UnitedHealth’s Optum will help clinicians employed by Walmart deliver better healthcare by utilizing decision support tools and data analytics. These changes will ensure a higher level of care in a convenient location and at an affordable price point.
Carmouche emphasizes the last of these points: “It really allows us to fulfill the promise of trying to keep care affordable. The affordability piece we think is driven better in a value-based environment.”
Next Steps for the Partnership
Open enrollment for the UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage Walmart Flex plan begins October 15 and will be available in Georgia for the 2023 plan year. Starting in January, those enrolled in United Healthcare’s Choice Plus PPO plan will have access to Walmart Health Virtual Care in-network.
While the success of this value-based healthcare initiative remains to be seen, this new direction is something medical professionals should pay attention to. Patients need affordable healthcare options that provide better outcomes.
Value-Based Healthcare for Patients
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