An insurance giant and retail superpower are teaming up in another move reflecting consumers’ desire to age in place.
Anthem (NYSE: ANTM) and Walmart (NYSE: WMT) announced Monday that they’re forming a partnership to decrease health care costs and improve access to medication and supplies. If successful, the move could increase shopping convenience to home care providers and patients.
Indianapolis-based Anthem is a leading health insurance plan provider in the United States. Anthem’s affiliated companies serve nearly 73 million people, including about 40 million within its family health plans, according to the company.
“Anthem is working with Walmart, one of the largest U.S. retailers, to advance the companies’ mutual goals of reducing health care costs and providing consumers with increased access to OTC medicines and services that can improve their health,” an Anthem spokesperson told Home Health Care News via email.
Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart began in the 1960s and has grown into one of the largest retailers worldwide. The company employs 2.3 million associates, and about 270 million customers visit its stores and website each week.
Walmart’s fiscal year 2018 revenue was $500.3 billion, according to company statistics.
The new program between Anthem and Walmart will allow consumers enrolled in Anthem’s Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to use OTC plan allowances to purchase over-the-counter medicine and health supplies at Walmart’s 4,700 stores and online, according to the companies.
More than 90% of U.S. consumers live within 10 miles of a Walmart store.
The program will officially start at the beginning of next year.
“Starting in 2019, consumers will have more cost-effective options in terms of the way they purchase their covered OTC products through their plan allowance,” the Anthem spokesperson said. “The program with Walmart will allow consumers to pick the shopping method that best fits their lifestyle and the initiative is expected to significantly reduce the out-of-pocket cost burden for those enrolled in Anthem’s affiliated MA health plans.”
Walmart has been making an ongoing effort to move further into the health care space.
Additionally, in April, there were reports that Walmart was in talks to acquire Humana (NYSE: HUM).
Walmart has also developed a partnership with in-home care provider Honor. The California-based startup opened storefronts inside two Walmart stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas. Honor wanted to try a new way to reach the community, allowing customers to sign up for home care on the spot. The startup has since pivoted to being an operations and technology partner for a network of in-home care agencies.
“Walmart is committed to making health care more affordable and accessible, and we are in constant pursuit of new ways to deliver on this commitment,” Sean Slovenski, senior vice president of health and wellness at Walmart U.S., said in a press release.
For Anthem, building a relationship with Walmart is in line with its desire to increase growth of its MA plans. Acquisitions will play a key role in that strategy, Anthem leadership said during a second-quarter earnings call with investors in July.
“We expect our group MA business will more than double in the back half of 2018, albeit off a base of 26,000 members at the end of the second quarter,” Gail Koziara Boudreaux, Anthem president and CEO, said during the call.
The collaboration between Walmart and Anthem is not a new idea for the industry.
CVS and Aetna joined forces last year with a similar goal to become a one-stop shop for seniors, and decrease hospitalizations. CVS and Aetna also hope the merger will help the companies better manage chronic conditions and improve the bottom line for Aetna’s MA business. The transaction is still pending regulatory approval.
Walmart and Anthem will likely have similar goals aimed at helping seniors age in place as part of their collaboration.
“For many consumers, this program may eliminate the need for another shopping stop since many individuals already frequent Walmart for their day-to-day purchasing needs,” the Anthem spokesperson said.
Written by Kaitlyn Mattson