- Walgreens and UnitedHealthcare have signed a multi-year agreement to open 14 Medicare service centers in select Walgreens stores across five metropolitan areas starting next year.
- The centers will allow Walgreens customers to inquire about and even enroll in UnitedHealthcare's Medicare Advantage plans. For those who are already UnitedHealthcare MA members, they will serve as a place to schedule appointments for care like annual checkups.
- The centers will play a role in providing customer service to MA beneficiaries in the Las Vegas, Phoenix, Cleveland, Denver and Memphis, Tennessee, markets.
More seniors are opting into MA plans, which have become a lucrative business for insurers. Nearly one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries, or 22 million people, are enrolled in MA plans.
The deal gives UnitedHealthcare access to reach more members as Walgreens operates more than 9,000 drugstores with a presence in all 50 states. For Walgreens, the deal has the ability to drive additional foot traffic to stores as UnitedHealthcare commands the largest share of MA members, about 26% of the entire MA market, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
"Through strategic partnerships like this, Walgreens store locations can offer comprehensive services tailored to the specific needs of the communities we serve that are conveniently accessible alongside our pharmacy services," Rick Gates, senior vice president of pharmacy and healthcare at Walgreens, said in a statement released Monday.
CVS Health, which owns its own insurance plan with Aetna, has made a similar move as it plans to open more than 1,500 HealthHUB stores across the country by the end of 2021. The HealthHUB stores earmark about 20% of CVS retail space to health services, with a special focus on preventive care and wellness.
In its bid for Aetna, CVS claimed the deal would serve as the "front door" to healthcare as a majority of Americans live just a few miles from a CVS store and tend to interact with pharmacists more than their doctor.
Other nontraditional players, including Walmart, have jumped in the space as well. The company launched its first health superstore in Dallas, Georgia, this fall.
The recent developments underscore the rise of consumerism in healthcare in which more care is moving from outside the grip of hospitals to more convenient, lower-cost settings.