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15-10-2012 | Article

Walmart institutes domestic medical tourism for employees


Walmart company website

medwireNews: Walmart, the world's largest retailer, is using its clout to negotiate lower prices for specialized healthcare for its employees, the company has announced.

"As health care costs continue to rise, Walmart is introducing a first-of-its-kind Centers of Excellence program that will offer its associates quality health care with no out-of-pocket cost for heart, spine, and transplant surgeries at six of the leading hospital and health systems in the US, " the company said in a press statement.

Walmart employees (or "associates" as they are known in company parlance) who are eligible for the company's health insurance plans, as well as their dependents, will receive consultations and medical/surgical care for specified conditions at nationwide institutes including the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and Mercy Hospital Springfield in Springfield, Missouri.

The company will cover the employees' deductibles and co-payments for eligible procedures, as well as travel, lodging, and meals for the patient and one caregiver.

"In providing this service at no cost to its enrolled associates, Walmart has worked with these Centers of Excellence health systems to provide exclusive and unique bundled pricing arrangements for these types of procedures. Through Centers of Excellence, Walmart is working with all the health care organizations to collectively share best practices that will allow collaboration around best measures of service and new industry findings in comparison to industry practices," the company states.

Covered cardiac procedures will include open heart surgery for coronary artery bypass grafting, heart valve replacement/repair, heart defect repairs, thoracic and aortic aneurysm repair, and other complex cardiac surgeries. Cardiac services will be offered in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.

Designated Centers of Excellence in Missouri, Texas, and Washington will offer specialized orthopedic and musculoskeletal surgery, including cervical and lumbar spinal fusion, total disc arthroplasty, spine surgery revisions, and other complex spine surgeries.

The program is an expansion of a service begun by the company in 1996 in cooperation with the Mayo Clinic to provide a centralized facility for organ transplants.

By Neil Osterweil, medwireNews Reporter