The retailer's Atlanta-area workers will be served by the plan, which aims to foster collaboration among hospitals, physicians, payers, and employers.
Emory Healthcare has teamed up with Walmart to launch a new accountable care organization (ACO) serving the retail behemoth's Atlanta-area employees.
The partnership between an established provider brand and a massive employer that has made its business aspirations in healthcare known could signal a shift in how traditional players in the healthcare sector think about newcomers.
Rather than viewing Walmart or Amazon purely as potential competition, hospitals and health systems may be growing more willing to accept the retailers as collaborators.
"When Walmart approached Emory about these opportunities, we were excited to partner with Walmart, a progressive company dedicated to transforming health care and its delivery process," Emory Healthcare Network CEO Patrick Hammond said in a statement.
"More and more large, self-insured employers like Walmart are looking for new and creative solutions as a potential way to decrease costs of health care plans for employees, while improving the overall quality of the care," Hammond added.
Lisa Woods, senior director of healthcare benefits for Walmart's U.S. operations, said joining forces with Emory makes sense because Walmart is constantly looking for new and better ways to support its workers and secure access to appropriate care.
"Not only does Emory offer a quality provider network, but Emory has also been a great partner in supporting payment reform initiatives," Woods said in the statement. "We appreciate Emory’s willingness to innovate with us as we evolve our programs."
Under the new program, Walmart employees who work at 55 locations throughout the Atlanta metro area will have the option to select Emory Accountable Care Plan as their primary health plan, the organizations said in their announcement.
Walmart employees in the area have access to more than 2,000 doctors in the Emory Healthcare Network. Covered workers will still make standard copayments for primary, specialist, and urgent care, but their preventive care visits will be offered for free.
The idea behind the collaboration is to improve quality of care while lowering overall costs.
Additionally, the organizations announced that the Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital and Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center had been added to Walmart's Centers of Excellence programs for spine and joint replacement surgeries—which accept a fixed bundled payment for specified procedures.
Walmart workers enrolled in a company-sponsored plan will pay nothing out-of-pocket for certain surgeries at these Emory facilities—nor will they pay travel-related costs—thanks to the Centers of Excellence designations, the companies said.
The changes took effect January 1.
Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.