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Wal*Mart: RFI ‘Overwritten and Incorrect’

By Gregg A. Masters, MPH

Whoa! Not 24 hours after the Request for Information (RFI) issued by WalMart Health and Wellness directed to it’s ‘strategic partner’ downline hit the street, I mean was leaked to the press, WalMart’s senior management felt compelled to promptly backdown from it’s rational, comprehensive, timely and sensible approach to make a meaningful dent into the US Healthcare, I mean, ‘Sickcare’ quagmire, by issuing the following terse statement:

Walmart Statement in Response to Health & Wellness Request for Information

“The RFI statement of intent is overwritten and incorrect. We are not building a national, integrated, low-cost primary care health care platform.”
– John Agwunobi M.D., Senior Vice President & President of Walmart U.S. Health & Wellness

Yikes! What’s behind this ‘whiplash’ effect?

It’s not news that WalMart has a mixed history with respect to the way they manage or evade (depending on your point of view) offering health benefits as an incentive to their less than full time staff. Yet, WalMart is the ‘400 pound gorilla’ as Chukwuma I. Onyeije, M.D., aka @chukwumaonyeije opined in a Google+ thread to a pool of health care social media peeps on Wednesday.

Regardless of the creative health benefits offer or ‘avoidance strategy’ for their part time staff, WalMart who’s gross sales account for approximately .5% of total US GDP, is a behemoth and perhaps second only to the Federal Government, the single largest ‘wholesale buyer’ of health benefits in the US.

So when they retained Price Waterhouse Coopers to consult on the compiling and distribution of an RFI to the tighly held ‘strategic partner’ network, they clearly intended to step into the population management fray of the payor/provider conundrum. You know, your costs are my revenues…

I’ve suspected all along, that while many on the provider side whine about CMS, the PPACA and now final rule to implement ACOs, many forward thinking peeps, mostly the Wall Street crowd who smell profits in those emerging re-engineered rules around population health management are stepping foward, perhaps aided and abetted by the so called ‘2nd in position skin in the game’ employer community.

We’ll watch and report with interest how this drama and retraction plays out.

See recent article released today by NPR, ‘Wal-Mart’s Clarification on Health Care Leaves Room For Big Moves‘.

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