Healthcare

Walmart to test health care pilot programs for US employees

Walmart plans to launch a series of pilot programs for U.S. employees beginning Jan. 1 in an effort to reduce health care expenses, Reuters reported on Thursday.

America's largest private-sector employer is set to test an initiative that puts patients in touch with area doctors, hoping to reduce the number of employees who find doctors through social media or word of mouth. The initial program will take place in certain regions of Texas, Arkansas and Florida, according to Reuters.

In North Carolina and South Carolina, meanwhile, the company will reportedly pilot a concierge service to help employees deal with billing, appointment and diagnosis issues as well as finding a provider. And in Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin, it will expand a telemedicine program that lets patients video chat with doctors.

The announcement comes the year after Walmart reached an arrangement with health insurer Anthem to draw more Medicare beneficiaries.

Critics of Walmart have blasted it for the wages and benefits it offers workers relative to its profits. In June, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) attended a Walmart meeting as a proxy for an employee to call on the company to increase its minimum wage.

"People cannot make it on $11 an hour," the presidential candidate said. "You can't pay rent. You can't get health care. You can't feed your kids or put gas in the car on $11 an hour."

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