WalMart Buying Humana?

WalMart is rumored to be seriously considering acquiring Humana, a health plan provider.  That should send shock waves through both retailing and healthcare industries, not to mention the world of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs).

WalMart could acquire pharmaceuticals at deeper discounts than it already enjoys.  WalMart could open full-service medical clinics in its superstores.  WalMart likely would have the clout to completely undo the pricing structure in place for anything and everything medical and healthcare related.

In my working days, I was involved in the vision care insurance world and WalMart became an authorized retail center for a vision care insurance plan with which I was involved at an executive level.  That was a significant disruptive influence that significantly reshaped the world of vision care plans.  The purchasing clout of WalMart and the massive capability of providing service 24-7 in almost every major population center was quickly recognized by every other vision program and vision care provider.

I am not making comment on whether this would be good or not good for the typical consumer of healthcare services.  I am making comment as to the prospective disruption I would foresee as WalMart flexes its muscle.  There are state-level requirements for anyone providing such services so I would expect that quality of care would be similar to what we experience today although probably delivered in not-so-beautiful facilities as competition uses today.

Wal-Mart trades some creature comforts for a price point that makes it a powerhouse in anything it decides to become a part of commercially.  Wal-Mart has been and remains a disrupter no matter the arena it is playing in nor what services it is providing.

There is a segment of the healthcare marketplace that likely will not patronize a WalMart location ever for health care services beyond those in the vision center.  But, I believe that is an ever-decreasing percentage of the total number of healthcare consumers.   I doubt that WalMart will engage in the more sophisticated areas of health care, but if it doesn’t, it will have relationships in place for the referral of patients requiring such services and treatments.  And, it will have negotiated fee reductions in return for the referral flow it can bring to affiliated providers.

This will be an impactful event in the world of healthcare.  There is much room for creativity and this organization is an old pro at disrupting things it targets to disrupt while providing the services and materials it is required to provide at better price points and with extended hours available.  WalMart has created an entire segment of the retail marketplace that simply thinks “WalMart” whenever it needs anything.  I suspect it will be capable of doing that in this new world it has apparently just made its way into with its checkbook.

Like it or lump it.  It is going to happen.

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