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Wal-Mart to join Arkansas healthcare initiative

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Little Rock, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Arkansas governor Mike Beebe announced Thursday that Wal-Mart will join an Arkansas program intended to change the way that private insurers and Medicaid pay for services. Wal-Mart’s Arkansas employees’ insurance plans, which cover about 57,000 workers, will become a part of the statewide program.

The retailer has committed $670,000 toward a tracking system to measure the program’s success as well as distribute information about the reforms.

Wal-Mart will also serve on an employer advisory council for the state.

The Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative moves away from a fee-for-service model to one where insurers pay for "episodes" of care rather than each individual treatment.

"Governor Beebe is leading a first-of-a-kind payment-reform effort in Arkansas that health experts elsewhere are following closely. We respect the work being done in Arkansas, and we are excited about the opportunity to offer real support to such a meaningful project in our home state," said Sally Welborn, Wal-Mart’s SVP benefits.

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Consumer confidence waned last week

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell to minus 34.4 in the seven days ended Jan. 6 from minus 31.8 the prior period, the biggest one-week drop since August. Jobless claims increased by 4,000 to 371,000 in the week ended Jan. 5, according to Labor Department figures.

“Consumers are coming to the realization that their take- home pay is going to get smaller,” said Richard Yamarone, a senior economist at Bloomberg LP in New York. “That will translate into weaker spending. I expect the economy will spin its wheels for many months until the jobs picture and associated incomes improve.”

The Bloomberg index indicated those with less disposable income showed the biggest declines in confidence last week. Americans making between $25,000 and $39,999 were the most pessimistic in three months, and confidence among those earning $15,000 to $24,999 a year fell by the most in two months.

Consumers on the other end of the income scale remained more confident. The figures showed comfort among those earning $50,000 or more annually climbed to the highest level since November 2007. Sentiment among those making $100,000 or more was the highest since October 2010.

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Walmart, Sam’s Club share vision

BY CSA STAFF

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart and Sam’s Club are introducing a new contact lens program for 2013, the retailers said.

The new program will allow customers to visit Walmart’s or Sam’s Club’s website or call a toll-free number to place contact lens orders and have them delivered to their homes, with free shipping available for orders of more than $50. In addition, the two are offering low prices for certain Acuvue, Air Optix and Biofinity lenses, while Walmart is planning to launch its private-label Equate brand in February.

"At Walmart and Sam’s Club, we are always looking for ways to make it easier and more affordable for our customers to live healthier lives," Walmart health and wellness division president John Agwunobi said. "This new contact lens program, coupled with our in-store Vision Centers and in-club Optical Centers, provides our customers with a true one-stop vision solution."

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