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Walmart to open 'care clinic' in Whittlesey Boulevard supercenter

By Tony Adams, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 20--Do you have a cold, the flu, or need to get tested for a bladder infection or strep throat?

Walmart will soon be inviting you into its supercenter at 5448 Whittlesey Blvd. for treatment.

The mega-retailer is planning to open what it calls a "Walmart Care Clinic" inside the Columbus supercenter on Aug. 29, located in about 1,000 square feet of space up front near the service desk.

Another clinic is set to open that same day in Carrollton, Ga. For now, it and the Columbus store will be the only two such medical facilities in Georgia, and the eighth and ninth in the U.S., as part of a pilot program.

"There's about a dozen locations that are part of the pilot program," Walmart spokeswoman Danit Marquardt said Tuesday. "We don't have a specific time identified for when it will go out of pilot mode" and be expanded.

Using the slogan, "Quality healthcare doesn't have to cost a fortune," Walmart says it will charge a flat $40 for visits -- $4 for covered Walmart employees and family members -- with extra fees for lab tests, immunizations and other services.

Nurse practitioners will be on staff. Appointments can be made, the retailer said, although walk-ins will be accepted.

"We do not currently accept third-party commercial insurance," Marquardt said. "We are in the process of accepting Medicaid and currently accept fee-for-service Medicare."

An ... la carte list on the company's website shows on-site clinic lab tests ranging from $8 for a quick strep or bladder infection check to $15 to get results for HIV and urine protein levels. External lab tests range from $8 to check for thyroid and kidney function to $33.70 for an STD test and $36 for a pap smear.

Immunizations include $25 for flu, $76.88 for measles, $122.50 for meningitis, $126.50 for chicken pox, $149.95 for HPV and $209 for shingles.

The Walmart website says the clinics are geared toward delivering wellness and preventive care, primary acute care, management of chronic conditions and referrals to specialists.

"It's creating a new price position for retail health services that aims to give both our associates and customers greater access to quality, affordable health care," Marquardt said.

The current effort by the retailer is different than in the past, when it contracted with independent health-care companies to set up clinics in some of its supercenters. Marquardt said there are now about 100 of those operating in Walmart stores.

The new clinics will be owned and operated by Walmart, which already has opened four facilities in Texas and two in South Carolina, with another "coming soon" in the latter state.

Marquardt said the care clinics inside the Columbus and Carrollton stores "could reach" a combined Walmart staff of more than 2,800. That apparently includes workers from other stores in the city and the surrounding area.

Aside from the Whittlesey Boulevard location, Walmart has supercenters on Gateway Road and Airport Thruway and a smaller store on Buena Vista Road. It also has a supercenter on U.S. Highway 280/431 in Phenix City. Marquardt declined to discuss the prospects of additional care clinics opening inside any of those.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart has been the target of criticism through the years for benefits offered to its lower-income employees. "We're committed to finding ways to drive down health-care costs for our associates," said Marquardt, pointing out 1.1 million Walmart employees and family members are covered under the company's health-care plan.

The new clinic in a retail setting will join several traditional urgent care and primary care clinics already operating in the Columbus area. That includes Columbus Regional Health and its MyCare Urgent Care facilities at Doctors Specialty Hospital, and on Blackmon and South Lumpkin roads.

Columbus Regional communications director Marion Scott, in a statement released Tuesday, said the Walmart startup should not impact the health-care system.

"Our locations meet the needs of people in different neighborhoods who may be experiencing minor illnesses and injuries and are unable to see their primary physician," she said. "We also provide occupational medicine services at all our MyCare facilities, which meet the needs of small and large businesses throughout the community."

Marquardt said Columbus and the other Walmart stores in the Southeast and in Texas were chosen for the pilot program for several reasons.

It included "areas with a lack or shortage of primary care providers, areas with a high propensity of uninsured, underinsured or Medicaid participants, areas with a high likelihood of chronic disease, and areas with Walmart associate density where we can reach a (high) number" of workers for health care.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. recently reported a profit of $7.5 billion on total revenue of $235 billion through the first half of this year. It operates 11,053 stores under 71 names in 27 countries, employing about 2 million worldwide.

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(c)2014 the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, Ga.)

Visit the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, Ga.) at www.ledger-enquirer.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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