Retail goliath Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is changing the shape of employer insurance programs by offering its workers no-cost heart and spine surgeries through a new "Centers of Excellence" initiative.
Wal-Mart selected 6 nationwide centers at which employees enrolled in the company’s medical program can seek consultations and care without paying anything out of pocket, beginning in January.
The program includes payment for travel, lodging and food expenses for the patient and an accompanying caregiver, and covers all deductible and co-insurance fees, according to a press release.
"We devoted extensive time developing Centers of Excellence in order to improve the quality of care our associates’ receive," senior vice president of global benefits Sally Welborn said in prepared remarks. "Through these hospital systems, our associates will have no out-of-pocket expenses and a greater peace of mind knowing they are receiving exceptional care from a facility that specializes in the procedure they require. This is the first time a retailer has offered a comprehensive, nationwide program for heart, spine and transplant surgery."
Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retail organization and employs 1.4 million workers in the U.S., making it the nation’s 2nd largest employer behind the U.S. government, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The company has made waves in healthcare before. In 2006 Wal-Mart began selling certain prescription drugs for $4, a move that rippled that prompted similar changes at other pharmacies.
The retailer’s health program, which in 1996 began offering full coverage for transplant surgeries through the Mayo Clinic, expanded to cover certain heart and spine procedures as long as they are performed at 1 of 6 selected centers, which include:
- Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio
- Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa.
- Mayo Clinic sites in Rochester, Minn., Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz., and Jacksonville, Fla.
- Mercy Hospital Springfield in Springfield, Mo
- Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas
- and Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Wash.
Patients must be healthy enough to travel for the surgeries, the company noted.
Several of the sites offer specific procedures in open-hear surgery for coronary artery bypass grating, heart valve replacement and repair, closure of heart defects, thoracic and aortic aneurysms and other complex heart surgeries, according to the press release.
Other sites will focus on spinal operations, including cervical and lumbar spinal fusion, total disk arthroplasty, spine surgery revisions and other complex spine surgeries.
WMT shares gain 1.1% today, closing at $75.81.