- Sam's Club, a retail warehouse club operated by Walmart, is teaming up with healthcare companies to offer four bundled healthcare service offerings for its members, ranging from $50 to $240 per year.
- The pilot, called Care Accelerator, is in tandem with payer Humana and on-demand primary care app 98point6. Bundles vary in included services, but each offers free prescriptions on some generic medications, low-cost dental and vision services, prepaid health debit cards for use within the network and unlimited telehealth for $1 a visit.
- The program will be rolled out in early October to members in Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, with plans for further expansion to all members in the future.
Healthcare costs are placing a growing strain on families and insurers and employers are scrambling to find a way to lower costs. The average healthcare dollar contribution for families has increased 21% since 2013 and 65% since 2008, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
"Care Accelerator is designed to solve these problems, especially for our members who shoulder a higher burden of healthcare costs, like small business owners or those with high deductible plans," Lori Flees, SVP of Sam's Club Health & Wellness wrote in a Thursday blog post.
The program's reliance on telemedicine comes as the site of care shifts away from acute care settings. Seattle-based 98point6 is one of a crop of fledgling companies looking to leverage tech to disrupt how care is provided in the U.S.
E-commerce behemoth Amazon is taking a similar tack as Sam's Club, announcing earlier this week a virtual primary care clinic pilot for its Seattle employees. Other major employers are directly contracting with providers (Walmart has done this for spinal care), incentivizing employees for wellness activities or building their own on-site clinics.
But consumers are leery of telemedicine and adoption's been slow, despite the hype. Only 15% of doctors have used telemedicine in a clinical setting, according to the American Medical Association.
Sam's Club other partner in the effort, Louisville, Kentucky-based Humana, has some experience with alternate payment models, already operating a handful. For example, it launched an oncology payment model for its Medicare Advantage and commercial customers in April. In it, the payer is partnering with physician groups nationwide and financially rewards them for exceeding quality benchmarks in cancer care.
The new program, meant to supplement insurance, isn't Sam's Club's first foray into healthcare. The retailer operates a chain of in-store pharmacies, which have ranked highest in customer satisfaction among mass merchandiser pharmacies in J.D. Power's U.S. Pharmacy Study for four years now.
The company stressed that Care Accelerator is not a health insurance plan. Participating Sam's Club members will still have to pay their healthcare provider at the point of service, though it will be at a discounted rate.
The family bundle, for example, costs $240 a year and covers up to six family members. It includes access to preventive lab screenings for early detection of heart disease and diabetes, a 10% discount on hearing aids and up to a 30% discount on chiropractic, massage and acupuncture services.
By comparison, the "Starter A" bundle only includes free select generic medications, $1 telehealth visits, $60 eye exams and a $5 prepaid health debit card. Medications must be filled at Sam's Club pharmacies and eye exams must be done at Sam's Club, guaranteeing business for the retailer and its 566 pharmacy locations.
Sam's Club sales increased 1.8% year over year in the second quarter of 2019 to $15 billion.