Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Fixing Health Care... the Wal-Mart Way?

Wal-Mart, perhaps most famous in relation to the subject for offering little health coverage to its employees and their families, is apparently offering to apply its genius to fixing the nation's health care system.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., at the center of debate over corporate responsibility for health care, said on Tuesday that it wants to use its cost-cutting expertise to help make the U.S. health care system more efficient.

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Wal-Mart said health care is a national problem and required a joint effort from government, corporations and workers to find ways to make the system more efficient.

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The retailer said the key is to figure out what is driving up health care costs -- just as Wal-Mart does with its vaunted supply chain network -- and then wring inefficiencies out of the system.

Wal-Mart tracks expenses so closely that cardboard boxes at its distribution centers bear a message reminding employees that each box costs the company 75 cents.

The retailer offered up its information technology expertise to help develop a system for keeping electronic medical records as another means of reducing costs.

Wal-Mart also said that lessons could be learned from health clinics it is opening in dozens of stores around the country, many of which serve uninsured patients who would otherwise go to the emergency room -- a major drain on health care resources.
Funny, I don't recall Wal-Mart suggesting that it needed help from the nation's workers, the government, or other coprorations to figure out how to run its own operations. Proposing electronic medical records, also, is far from an innovation.

Perhaps this is just a fancy press release for its planned in-store medical clinics (which presumably will also be the primary provider of medical care for its workers and their families under the next generation of Wal-Mart's employee health insurance plans).

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