Since April, Wal-Mart has opened six primary care clinics with plans to open six more by the end of the year. These new clinics will provide healthcare for both employees and residents in underserved areas. With over 4,000 stores across the United States, Wal-Mart plans to take advantage of the many opportunities that the Affordable Care Act has provided. Unlike their 90 independently owned and operated acute care/wellness clinics, Wal-Mart Care Clinics will be run by the company and provide specialist referrals and management of a range of chronic conditions.

Through a partnership with QuadMed, the clinics will be staffed by nurse practitioners and supervised by a non-treating physician. Patients will be charged $40 per visit, while employees and dependents covered by Wal-Mart insurance will pay $4 per visit.

The first primary care clinic to open is located in Copperas Cove, Texas, due to its prime location in relation to other Wal-Marts. As the largest private employer in the country, Wal-Mart has often been criticized for not providing adequate affordable healthcare for its employees. These new clinics will change that. The Copperas Cove clinic alone will offer care to an estimated 3,000 employees.

All of the Wal-Mart clinics currently accept Medicare. Some of them are starting to accept Medicaid as well. Unfortunately, the clinics don’t yet accept any third-party commercial insurance other than the Wal-Mart employee plan.

Unlike other chains, Wal-Mart has branded their clinics as primary care facilities. Chains such as Walgreens, with their 400 acute/wellness care clinics, strongly suggest that patients seek continuing care elsewhere. Retail clinics in pharmacies, grocery stores, and big box stores, have been growing steadily. However, since they’re commonly located in metropolitan areas with relatively low poverty rates and higher incomes, these clinics have done little to improve healthcare access for underserved populations.

According to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), 7 out of 10 health profession shortages are in rural communities. To help solve this problem, 5 of the 6 Wal-Mart primary care clinics are located in counties designated as medically underserved. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart has closed 33 acute care/wellness care clinics this year, bringing their numbers down to approximately 100.

Wal-Mart hasn’t yet announced how many primary care clinics are planned for 2015, nor where they’ll be located. The company will continue to closely monitor their clinics and learn as they go in order to provide their employees and customers with quality service and access to affordable healthcare.

Author: Lauren Daniels

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