Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to open as many as 400 in-store health clinics over two to three years and could raise the total to 2,000 within seven years, the world’s largest retailer said Tuesday.
Chief Executive Lee Scott was due to make the announcement at a health care conference in Washington, D.C., later in the day, Wal-Mart said in a statement.
The retailer has more than 3,000 Wal-Mart discount stores and Supercenters in the United States, where it has been experimenting with walk-in health clinics as part of a trend among several national retail, grocery and drug store chains.
“We think the clinics will be a great opportunity for our business. But most importantly, they are going to provide something our customers and communities desperately need — affordable access at the local level to quality health care,” Scott said according to a text of his speech.
Wal-Mart called the clinic program part of a series of moves it is making to implement “customer solutions to America’s health care crisis.” Other steps included a $4 generic drug prescription program it started last year and its support this year for a business and labor coalition seeking comprehensive health care reform by 2012.
Wal-Mart said it would contract with local hospitals and other organizations to operate the walk-in clinics, which lease space from Wal-Mart and are run as separate businesses.
It currently has 76 such clinics, which typically provide a limited number of basic health services at a lower cost than hospital emergency rooms or doctor’s offices and do not require an appointment.
Scott said surveys in existing clinics revealed more than half of those who visited a clinic said they were uninsured. Nearly 15 percent of customers said they would have gone to a hospital emergency room for their care if they could not have gone to the clinic inside a Wal-Mart.