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Facebook, Uber and Walmart, among others, expand further into health care

Written by Diane Archer

Health care has become such a lucrative enterprise that health care businesses are expanding and non-health care businesses are moving into health care, reports Healthcare Dive. Before you know it, Facebook might be reminding you to get your flu shot, Walmart might be providing your flu shot, and Uber might be taking you to your doctor’s appointment. As more corporations push health care, what does that mean for health care costs?

Recently, Walgreens partnered with UnitedHealthcare to assist people with Medicare. Walgreens will answer questions about United Healthcare’s Medicare Advantage plans and steer its customers to enroll in these private plans. Walgreen’s will also help its customers already enrolled in UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare plans to schedule medical appointments and other services.

These partnerships are designed to generate additional revenue for both Walgreens and UnitedHealthcare, while expanding access to care for their customers. UnitedHealthcare makes tremendous profits from its Medicare Advantage members. But, it can cost UnitedHealthcare more than $1,000 to enroll each new member.

Presumably, Walgreen’s services can give UnitedHealthcare excellent marketing reach and save UnitedHealthcare enrollment and retention costs. The partnership should also earn significant revenue for Walgreens both from helping to secure new memberships for UnitedHealthcare and attracting more customers into Walgreens.

CVS Health, which offers insurance through Aetna, is opening 1,500 HealthHUB stores. CVS Health is allocating about a fifth of its retail store space in these pharmacies to health care services, including preventive care and wellness.

Walmart has opened its first health superstore in Dallas, Georgia, an underserved community. Walmart offers a range of primary care services, including dental care, vision care and psychiatric and behavioral health counseling. It also offers lab services and imaging, along with nutrition and fitness classes. Walmart also now has 16 centers of excellence across the country that offer hip and knee replacements for its more than one million employees.

Kroger, a grocery chain, is offering more health care services through its new 360care program. It claims to be expanding access to care at lower cost through partnerships with local hospitals. It has more than 200 “LittleClinic” locations in nine states. It is also testing a program to help customers with depression.

In South Carolina, Publix, a grocery store chain, partnered with a hospital in an effort to make it easier for its customers to get health care services and prescriptions. Publix has arranged to provide prescription drugs to patients upon discharge. It also is offering video-conferencing telehealth services for people in non-emergency situations.

Costco is testing a partnership with Instacart to deliver prescription drugs to its customers.

Meanwhile, Facebook has launched a preventive care tool. And, Uber has gotten into the business of taking people to the hospital and doctor’s office.

These ventures show the increasing corporatization of health care. And, the range of companies that stand to profit from it. These companies will likely drive up health care spending further. Their services are designed to increase access to care, creating more volume and, with it, higher costs.

Here’s more from Just Care:

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