Sept. 26 (UPI) -- The world's second largest retailer, Walmart, announced today that it is expanding its role in the healthcare marketplace.
Beginning in October, Sam's Club, the company's division of membership warehouse stores, will launch a pilot program for members in Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, allowing them to purchase healthcare services including discounted dental care, free prescriptions drugs, and telephone health consultations.
The company, which announced the program on Thursday, said it will offer four healthcare "bundles," with fees ranging from $50 to $240 per year. Each bundle will include free prescriptions on certain generics, and opportunities to save on dental services through a network of Humana-affiliated providers, as well as discounts on vision exams and optical products.
The $240 family bundle will cover up to six family members, including access to preventative lab screenings for early detection of heart disease and diabetes, as well as discounts on chiropractic, massage therapy and acupuncture services.
The company also says each of its bundles will include prepaid health debit cards in amounts ranging from five dollars to one hundred dollars, depending on the level of plan purchased. The cards, to be used exclusively within the health services network, will effectively lower the overall consumer cost of the program.
Walmart is careful to note that the new pilot, called Sam's Club Care Accelerator Together with Humana, is not a health insurance plan, but a discount health program. Care Accelerator members will be responsible for paying each provider's discounted rate at the time of service.
Humana spokesman Marvin Hill told UPI that the test sites were chosen by examining the overlap between Sam's Club locations and Humana's dental network. Hill said Humana and Sam's Club first came together less than a year ago to begin discussions of the project.
A 2018 study by market analytics firm J.D. Power ranked Sam's Club highest in "Customer Satisfaction with Mass Merchandiser Pharmacies." The study was based on responses from over 10,000 pharmacy customers who filled a prescription during the three months prior to the survey.
Among the various U.S. pharmacy segments, supermarkets tend to have the highest levels of overall satisfaction, averaging a score of 863 out of 1,000 for 2018. But Sam's Club ranked highest overall in the category, with a score of 892.
The study found that among mass merchandiser pharmacies, the key driver of overall customer satisfaction was the availability of health and wellness services.
"We were honored to receive this award," Lori Flees, Sam's Club senior vice president for Health and Wellness, said in 2018. "We know our patients want access to high-quality and affordable health care services, and we are thrilled they responded to this survey in such a positive, powerful way."
Walmart has said the three-state pilot program could expand nationally, depending on consumer response.