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Save Money, Live Better: Lessons for Healthcare from Walmart on Serving Diverse Income Populations


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In the world of healthcare, the Medicaid segment is one that plans and providers alike struggle with serving well. The financial constraints, language barriers, transient housing, and varying needs make this a difficult population to focus on. However, as Oliver Wyman Principal Parie Garg explains, even in healthcare, necessity can prove to be the mother of invention:

Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) are being recognized for the role they are playing in managing the Medicaid population. While these MCOs have made significant strides in managing Medicaid, they can learn from a retailer who knows a thing or two about serving an economically diverse population: Walmart. Lessons from the big-box retailer for healthcare include:

  • Do what you are good at. In the healthcare world, Walmart is a provider of convenient, affordable healthcare services – rather than a master integrator of all things. In other words, Walmart has an important role to play in value-based care, but not as the risk-taking population health manager (PHM); instead, it’s the low-cost front door that can make any PHM more effective.
  • Take the horse to the pond. Consider that ~50% of the US population does not have a primary care physician (PCP) today, while approximately 60% of the US population goes through a Walmart store once a week. By bringing healthcare to Walmart retail stores, Walmart is essentially bringing healthcare to a historically underserved population – driving a revolution among people who weren’t interested in or who couldn’t see a PCP before the advent of retail clinics.
  • Make healthcare affordable. $4 generic. $40 PCP visits. Enough said.
  • Stretch the value of the dollar. Research has shown that Walmart costs (on average) 8-20% less than competitors for food, household items, and over-the-counter drugs. In recognition of this, Walmart has recently partnered with Michigan Medicaid to offer $50 gift cards for members who see their PCPs and agree to certain healthy behaviors. While there are plenty of critics for the program, it is a start – and a step in the right direction for a population that is remarkably difficult to engage.

We acknowledge that there are dissenters who would argue with the business practices of Walmart, and would challenge its presence in a community. However, Walmart offers a good example of how to leverage your core strengths to address the needs of your customers…to Save Money and Live Better.


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About the Author

Parie Garg, PhD portrait
Parie Garg, PhD Partner, Health & Life Sciences, Oliver Wyman

Parie has experience building value-based care delivery programs for health plans and provider systems and has guided several companies in the design and development of innovative care delivery models, with expertise in physician compensation and government programs.