B U S I N E S S
ILLUSTRATION BY 731
James E. Ellis
○ Walmart makes a major move
into health clinics and services
The main drag of Calhoun, Ga., a town of about
16,000 an hour’s drive north of Atlanta, is dotted
with pawnshops, liquor stores, and fast-food joints.
Here, as in thousands of other communities across
America, the local Walmart fulfills most everyday
needs—groceries, car repairs, money transfers,
even hairstyling. But now visitors to the Calhoun
store can also get a $30 medical checkup or a $
teeth cleaning, or talk about their anxieties with a
counselor for $1 a minute.
Prices for those services and more are clearly
listed on bright digital billboards in a cozy waiting
room inside a new Walmart Health center. Walk-ins
are welcome, but most appointments are booked
online beforehand. No insurance? No problem.
Need a lab test on a Sunday? Sure thing. Walmart
“care hosts” take customers to one of 12 care rooms
in the 6,500-square-foot facility. Afterward, they
steer patients to the in-store pharmacy. While they
wait, they can visit the produce section and grab
some veggies recommended by the doctor.
Welcome to health care, Walmart style.
The center in Calhoun, along with one in Dallas,
a suburb about 30 miles west of Atlanta, represents
the retailer’s attempt to grab a bigger slice of the
nation’s $3.6 trillion in health spending by harness-
ing its greatest asset—the 150 million people coming
through its 4,756 stores each week. While Walmart
Inc. hasn’t said how many clinics it plans to build,
it’s signaled that the health center expansion is one
of its top growth initiatives. The move pits it against
rivals such as CVS Health Corp., which is rolling out
its own “HealthHubs,” and creates a new front in
Walmart’s battle against Amazon.com Inc., which
also wants to disrupt the U.S. health-care system.
“We have an opportunity to help the country and to
build a stronger business,” Walmart Chief Executive
Officer Doug McMillon told investors in December.
It won’t be easy to persuade Americans to entrust
their health to a big-box discount retailer, especially
one that still sells unhealthy items such as cigarettes
and guns and has long been criticized for skimping
on the health-care needs of its own employees.
McMillon, whose father was a dentist, admits
he “just can’t imagine being a dentist working at
Walmart,” and he’s not alone. When Dee Artis saw
a Walmart Health job listing, she didn’t believe it:
“I thought it was spam,” she says. She’s now assistant
clinical administrator at the Dallas location, which
has been busy since opening in September, draw-
ing patients—many of them uninsured—from towns
as far away as a 75-minute drive. “I knew it would
be big because, hey, this is Walmart,” Artis says.