Wal-Mart (WMT), which is already providing significant banking services, is looking to get into healthcare in a big way, NPR reports. From a 14-page request for information (pdf) Wal-Mart distributed to potential partners:
Walmart seeks to dramatically: 1) lower the cost of healthcare while maintaining or improving outcomes and 2) expand access to high quality health services by becoming the largest provider of primary healthcare services in the nation. More specifically, Walmart will use its retail and multi-channel footprint to offer the lowest cost primary healthcare services and products in the nation. It will create geographically relevant delivery capabilities and seek to drive down the cost of services and products while maintaining a high quality of care. Services will include but not be limited to: clinical care, diagnostic services, preventative services, and health and wellness products.
There is no guarantee that Wal-Mart will succeed in these goals, but the assumptions behind it probably make some good sense. First, that healthcare is a growth area in an aging America. Second, that there is room to reduce cost relative to the current system while maintaining or improving outcomes. And third, that it might as well capture back some of that vast gusher of Medicare and Medicaid spending funded by the sales and payroll taxes collected at its cash registers and paid on its employee wages.
Finally, ask yourself which will have a more positive effect on banking services for consumers: the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, or Wal-Mart getting into financial services? Which will have a more positive effect on healthcare services for consumers: the ObamaCare legislation, or Wal-Mart getting into health care? It may be that Wal-Mart is targeting these highly regulated industries for growth because only a company of its size has the Washington muscle necessary to navigate or circumvent the bureaucracy involved in participating in them.
I can't imagine going to Wal-Mart for healthcare, but then again, a few years ago, I couldn't imagine going to Wa-Mmart for financial services, and then Citibank (C) started charging $24.95 for an order of personal checks, and, on the advice of FutureOfCapitalism watchdog-content co-creator-participant-community member-reader-commenter Lyle, I started ordering the checks from Wal-Mart at about $8 a box.