This morning NPR reported that Walmart was planning to become a major player in healthcare in the United States.
This afternoon Walmart denied the story, saying the document NPR saw was real but “overwritten and incorrect.” Reuters quoted Dr. John Agunobi, president of Walmart U.S. health & wellness as saying, “We are not building a national, integrated, low-cost primary care health care platform.”
My question for Dr. Agunobi and everyone at Walmart is quite simple: why not?
Walmart needs growth. It is one of the biggest companies in the United States but growth has essentially stalled. Healthcare is a huge opportunity.
Importantly, Walmart would be a unique and different player in healthcare: low-cost, super-efficient, reliable, practical and friendly. Walmart could do to healthcare what it has done to retailing, which is to force people to get much better, either differentiating in a meaningful way or cutting costs and prices.
Indeed, Walmart may be the best way to fix the healthcare spending problem in the United States. The company has vast scale, immense financial resources and an aggressive approach.
This is all easier said than done, of course. Healthcare is a complicated world. Selling toothpaste for less is a lot easier than selling MRIs for less.
Still, Walmart needs growth and healthcare is a huge opportunity. And the U.S. needs Walmart to bring some fresh thinking and low prices to healthcare.