Almost a year after Amazon’s highly-publicized announcement to fix healthcare for its employees, rival Walmart is expanding benefits for its workers at specialized healthcare facilities across the U.S. after data showed improved outcomes.
Jeff Bezos’ Amazon, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase Co. said almost a year ago that they will form an “independent company” to improve healthcare and lower costs for their hundreds of thousands of U.S. employees. At that time, it was in the early stages, but those involved have yet to reveal much of what they are offering their workers in the last 12 months.
Meanwhile, Walmart is expanding its “Centers of Excellence Program,” which has doubled the number of partners in the last two years to 15 sites, offering specialized treatments for cancer, organ transplantation, spine, knee, hip and heart surgeries. In a separate effort, Walmart has also been working with other medical care providers to develop “accountable care plans” for workers in certain U.S. markets.
Under the Centers of Excellence Program, Walmart sends patients to sites like the Cleveland Clinic or Mayo Clinic to better ensure patients are getting evaluated to make sure they actually need care. And if they do need treatment, the Centers of Excellence are supposed to make sure its done right the first time to improve quality and keep the employee healthy and working.
Walmart’s medical care provider partnerships in the Centers of Excellence program include Cleveland Clinic, Emory Healthcare, Geisinger Health System, Johns Hopkins, the Mayo Clinic, and Memorial Hermann.
It’s working so well at improving the quality of care for Walmart employees reducing costs for the retailer that they are expanding certain programs in 2019. In the spine care program, for example, Walmart effective Jan. 1 will require those in the company’s health plans to travel to one of eight locations for spine surgeries. Walmart hasn’t released specific cost savings but has altered benefits after seeing improved outcomes and quality.
“For spine surgery, beginning in January 2019, we will began requiring plan participants to travel to one of eight COE locations across the U.S. for covered spine surgery,” Walmart spokesman Justin Rushing said of the Centers of Excellence program. “Travel will be mandated after finding that about half of the participants who went to these locations were able to avoid the extensive surgery altogether. This is a model that’s been in place for transplant surgeries for the past 20 years.”
Walmart has no plans to announce additional sites to its Centers of Excellence network, but the retailer isn’t ruling out a future expansion. “We’re always reviewing potential partnerships that help us ensure our associates and their families are getting access to the highest quality of care possible,” Rushing said.