Payers

Walmart and Anthem collaborate to improve OTC drug access for seniors

The collaboration will enable Anthem Medicare Advantage members to use over-the-counter plan allowances to buy OTC medications and health-related supplies at Walmart stores and on Walmart.com.

Medicare

A retail giant and a payer have teamed up to tackle rising healthcare costs and assist a specific patient population.

As part of a collaboration unveiled earlier this week, Walmart and Anthem are launching an initiative that will allow Anthem Medicare Advantage members to use over-the-counter plan allowances to buy OTC medications and health-related items (like pain relievers and first aid supplies) at Walmart stores and on Walmart.com.

The program will begin in January 2019.

Overall, the aim of the project is to make it easier for consumers to access their medications and to cut back on the out-of-pocket costs for individuals enrolled in Anthem’s Medicare Advantage plans.

One expert observer of the space weighed in on why the organizations decided to band together.

“Walmart has made a very shrewd business decision in trying to get out ahead of Amazon and other external competitors making inroads in healthcare,” Rita Numerof, co-founder and president of healthcare consulting firm Numerof & Associates, said via email. “Anthem has also historically shown a level of business acumen and willingness to collaborate across industries, which has served them in the past and is exactly what we need more of among traditional healthcare players today.”

Walmart’s decision to focus on the Medicare population isn’t altogether surprising, she added, noting that it “shows they are aware of where their competitive edge lies: among seniors concerned with getting the most value for their money.”

The Arkansas-based retailer has been making waves in the healthcare realm as of late.

It already has a partnership with Humana to sell Medicare Part D drug plans. Speculation about the relationship between the organizations has only increased after a March Wall Street Journal report noted Walmart was looking at acquiring Humana. The retail company also recently tapped Sean Slovenski, the former vice president of innovation at Humana, as its senior vice president of health and wellness.

In other news, Walmart and Emory Healthcare in Atlanta joined forces to create an accountable care organization. The ACO allows Walmart employees at 55 Walmart, Sam’s Club and Walmart Distribution Center locations in metro-Atlanta to choose the Emory Accountable Care Plan as their primary health plan.

As the healthcare sector continues to converge with other industries, perhaps it’s best to conclude with Numerof’s words: “What’s clear is that retail business’ foray into healthcare is not going away.”

Photo: designer491, Getty Images