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Walmart signals continued interest in healthcare space through remodel of pharmacies

Walmart's multifaceted march into healthcare has included its Care Clinic models and a proposed merger with insurer Humana.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Credit: Google Street ViewCredit: Google Street View

As competing retail giants continue delving into the healthcare space, Walmart is taking yet another step with a remodel that signals a continued desire to make its mark. The mega chain has announced the remodeling of 500 stores across two dozen states that will include updated pharmacy areas equipped with private consultation rooms.

The announcement is yet another signal of the company's move to disrupt the healthcare space and make its own mark where others such as CVS Health and Walgreens have already set up shop. Most of the Walmart remodels will be in Texas and Florida stores, the company told Business Insider. The changes will be funded through its $11 billion capital expenditure plan.

[Also: JPMorgan CEO shares more on aims, tactics of healthcare venture with Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway]

Walmart already operates walk-in care clinics in Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, according to the company's website, that are staffed by certified nurse practitioners. The clinics offer primary acute care services, wellness and preventative care, labs services and chronic illness treatment and management, and do not require appointments.

Other retail outfits like CVS and Walgreens tout healthcare clinics with similar available services and convenience, making them an increasingly disruptive force in the healthcare space, especially in primary care.

[Also: Amazon made another bold move into healthcare that went relatively unnoticed]

Walmart is also in talks for a merger with Humana following the payer's failed merger with Aetna two years ago. Details of the Walmart-Humana merger are few, but the deal would no doubt enable Walmart to benefit from Humana's specialization in Medicare Advantage plans. Opening up the senior market to Walmart could bring a wave of traffic to its clinics and pharmacies.

It would also give Walmart a boost against major competitor Amazon, a company making its own path into healthcare by offering Medicaid beneficiaries discounted Prime memberships.  The discounted membership would cost Medicaid members $5.99 instead of  $12.99-per month or a $99-per-year price. Customers must have a valid Electronic Benefits Transfer or Medicaid card and can renew annually for up to four years, according to a Reuters report, and offers low prices and faster delivery for certain purchases.

Amazon appears to be blazing its own trail into the healthcare industry with the announced venture involving Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase. While specific details on the venture's goal remain somewhat elusive, JP Morgan's CEO recently commented that the collaboration would in part focus on creating better workplace wellness programs and improving employee access to telemedicine options.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
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