Walmart Health is closing its doors. Now, where do you go?


The good news is, you have options – lots of options

In a move that will impact lower income consumers and those in rural communities, Walmart Health is pulling the plug on its entire Walmart Health Virtual Care services.

“We determined there is not a sustainable business model for us to continue,” the company said in a news release. “This is a difficult decision, and like others, the challenging reimbursement environment and escalating operating costs create a lack of profitability that make the care business unsustainable for us at this time.”

What Walmart’s decision means for its members

If you’re a Walmart Health user, the company says its provider partners will continue to serve existing patients while clinics are open. “Through their respective employers, these providers will be paid for 90 days, after which eligible providers will receive transition payments,” the company says.

Walmart also noted that its entire array of nearly 5,000 pharmacies and 3,000 vision centers escaped the chopping block, so the services that those operations offer – medication therapy, health screenings, for example – will carry on. The vision centers are actually growing thanks to the company’s recent purchase of more than 200 other vision centers. 

The most significant impact will be indirect. The biggest plus that will now turn into a minus is that Walmart Health made it easier for consumers to find decent prices on primary care while forcing its competitors to keep their prices in check.

It’s too early to see how those two factors will change the playing field, but consumers should expect some sort of shift – and they might need to make a shift themselves if low-cost healthcare is a must. 

Potential alternatives

A few categories of alternatives consumers who relied on Walmart Health might consider include:

  • Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs): These centers provide primary care, dental, and sometimes behavioral health services on a sliding fee scale based on income, and offer an option for uninsured or underinsured individuals. 
  • Free or Charitable Clinics: These clinics vary in their services, but many offer basic care, medications, or specialist referrals at no cost or a greatly reduced cost for those who qualify. There might be wait times or service restrictions. To find a list of those clinics, just go here.
  • Urgent Care Centers: Even though a doc-in-a-box clinic doesn’t provide the same continuity of care as a primary doctor, they can be more affordable than hospital-based care. 
  • Retail Clinics: Walmart may be out of the picture, but pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens aren’t going away anytime soon. Those chains provide a limited range of basic services (flu shots, strep tests, etc.) and can be a good choice for minor ailments or preventive care.
  • Telehealth: Virtual visits are a growing option for consumers and often an affordable way to receive basic medical advice, prescriptions, and sometimes even specialist consultations. Many insurance plans now cover telehealth, and there are standalone telehealth services available. Amazon is very proactive about growing this segment, so it might be worthwhile to check their prices and services.

Just remember that the availability of options are geographically-dependent, especially when it comes to the more rural areas of the U.S. You should also keep in mind that your health insurance -- or lack thereof -- is a major factor in what options you can realistically afford. 

To get a better bead on costs, you’re in luck these days. There are now two ways to find out what a certain medical center charges for procedures. There’s the “Billy” app as well as the Health Care Price Tool. Either one of those will get you quicker answers than calling around and asking for prices.

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