UnitedHealth, Walmart in Medicare Advantage deal

Walmart will provide preventive care services to UnitedHealth Group Medicare Advantage customers under a 10-year deal the companies announced Wednesday. 

UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Optum’s data and analytics tools will guide Walmart Health clinicians to provide value-based care for Medicare beneficiaries, according to the companies. The initiative will begin in January at 15 Walmart Health locations in Florida and Georgia before expanding elsewhere, and the partners project it eventually will serve hundreds of thousands of patients. The companies also will market a co-branded Medicare Advantage plan in Georgia and Walmart Health Virtual Care will be in-network for some UnitedHealthcare commercial members in January.

“UnitedHealth Group and Walmart share a deep commitment to high-quality and affordable primary care led services that address all of a patient’s health needs in ways that are convenient for them and improve health outcomes,” UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty said in a news release.

The growing Medicare Advantage market and competition among insurers has encouraged similar partnerships. Elevance Health, formerly known as Anthem, inked a deal with the grocery chain Kroger last year and Walmart previously formed alliances with Humana and Clover Health, for instance.

These partnerships could boost insurers’ market share and generate business for retailers while improving patient health outcomes, said Matt Wolf, healthcare senior analyst at the consulting firm RSM. “There’s huge growth in Medicare Advantage, so we’re seeing this land grab for new patients and new lives there,” he said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and rising Medicare Advantage enrollment have accelerated the trend away from hospitals and toward lower-cost care at other sites, Wolf said. “The direction of healthcare really is toward this mass customization of the patient experience,” he said.

Walmart launched Walmart Health, which offers primary and urgent care, labs, diagnostics, behavioral health, dental, optometry and hearing services at 27 physical locations and via a virtual platform, in 2019.

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