Walmart To Provide Free Heart, Spine Surgeries For Employees
October 13, 2012

Walmart’s Centers of Excellence Program Expanded To Cover Heart And Spine Surgeries

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Walmart employees and their families will soon be able to receive free heart and spine related surgeries thanks to a new agreement between the retail commerce giant and six prominent healthcare facilities, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company announced on Thursday.

According to Reuters reports, the program will allow workers, spouses, and dependents to receive free consultations and care for select procedures, as well as room, board, and travel expenses for both the patient and one caretaker. The new offerings are part of an expansion of the retailer's Centers of Excellence health care program.

Such procedures will be covered at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio; the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania; Mayo Clinic sites in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida; Mercy Hospital Springfield in Springfield, Missouri; Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas; and the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, the wire service explained. The program is scheduled to begin in January 2013.

"Walmart anticipates that the program will help reduce its costs as it receives bundled pricing from the healthcare organizations, but it cannot project the amount it might save," Reuters said, adding that the company believes that it currently covers "about 60 percent of total cost of healthcare for employees on its healthcare plans, including out-of-pocket and premium expenses. For workers, including those with low-paying jobs, costs will now be reduced as they will no longer pay for such procedures."

“We devoted extensive time developing Centers of Excellence in order to improve the quality of care our associates´ receive,” Sally Welborn, senior vice president of global benefits at Walmart, said in a press release. “Through these hospital systems, our associates will have no out-of-pocket expenses and a greater peace of mind knowing they are receiving exceptional care from a facility that specializes in the procedure they require. This is the first time a retailer has offered a comprehensive, nationwide program for heart, spine and transplant surgery.”

Walmart's Centers of Excellence program originally covered transplants, and began with the Mayo Clinic in 1996. Under the program expansion, four of the facilities (the Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger Medical Center, Scott & White Memorial Hospital and Virginia Mason Medical Center) will perform open heart surgery for coronary artery bypass grafting, heart valve replacement/repair, closures of heart defects, thoracic and aortic aneurysm repair, and other types complex cardiac surgeries, while three of them (Mercy Hospital Springfield, Scott & White Memorial Hospital and Virginia Mason Medical Center) will perform cervical and lumbar spinal fusion, total disk arthroplasty, spine surgery revisions, and other types of spinal related procedures. The only caveat in the program is that the patient must be healthy enough to travel, according to the company's press release.

“Healthcare is in the midst of an unprecedented transformation and requires innovation to improve the way we deliver care to patients across the United States,” Cleveland Clinic President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Toby M. Cosgrove said. “Programs such as these will help get patients to the right place, for the right care, at the right time while focusing on quality outcomes and cost control.”