OPERATIONS

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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Report: Congressmen say Wal-Mart CEO was aware of Mexico bribery

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York — According to multiple reports on Thursday, congressmen Henry Waxman (D-Rep., Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Rep. Md.) have said that Wal-Mart Stores CEO Mike Duke and other senior-level officials at the retailer were informed about allegations of bribery in the retailer’s operations in Mexico in 2005.

The two congressmen cited documentation obtained by their staffs, which discussed allegations of corruption regarding a store in Teotihuacan.

However, a Wal-Mart spokesman said the information was nothing new. “This information has been part of the company’s ongoing investigation of potential violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for more than a year and has been the subject of two New York Times articles,” said spokesperson Brooke Buchanan in an e-mailed statement to wire services.

Wal-Mart is investigating allegations that executives in Mexico paid more than $24 million in bribes to speed the retailer’s expansion there.

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Walgreens details growth strategy

BY Marianne Wilson

Chicago — Walgreens on Wednesday told shareholders at the chain’s annual meeting in Chicago that it will continue to push the envelope of traditional drugstore retailing. Going forward, the company said it is focused on three areas of opportunity:

  • Delivering a complete “Well Experience” by transforming the customer experience across all of the company’s touch points, channels and formats;
  • Transforming the role community pharmacy plays in health care by offering unparalleled access to innovative, high quality and affordable health-and-wellness services; and
  • Creating an unprecedented and efficient global platform through its strategic partnership with Alliance Boots GmbH.

“With our three strategic growth objectives in place, Walgreens is now positioned extremely well for long-term growth,” said Greg Wasson, president and CEO, Walgreens.

Wasson told shareholders that chain is taking a “multi-pronged approach to delivering the Well Experience.”

“We are combining leading-edge design with enhanced products and services, increased engagement with team members and customers, and an omnichannel approach that blends our brick-and-mortar stores with e-commerce and mobile commerce,” he said. “We are deliberately blurring many retail channels to fit how consumers shop today.”

Calling 2012 “an important year for Walgreens,” Wasson said: "We did make some tough choices to protect and solidify … our position for the long term. [But] our vision is crystal clear to become the first choice for health and daily living in America."

Along with acquiring a global platform through its 45% stake in Alliance Boots, Walgreens made such other substantial acquisitions in 2012 as USA Drug, Crescent Pharmacy and BioScrip. And after a drawn-out and costly battle, it reached new, multi-year agreements with pharmacy benefit managers Express Scripts.
In addition, the company launched its first-ever loyalty program, Walgreens Balance Rewards, which now claims more than 50 million customers and continued to expand its “Well Experience” format, opening some 400 locations. The stores put the pharmacist in front of the counter and closer to the patient. Many of the locations feature a Take Care Health clinic. Walgreens said is expanding services available at its pharmacies and Take Care Clinics to include additional immunizations; chronic care management; primary care; Medicare wellness visits and member assessments; and health testing.

“With nearly 70% of the U.S. population either without a primary care physician or not utilizing one, and more than 30 million people gaining insurance coverage in 2014 under healthcare reform, we are well-positioned to fill the void in care,” Wasson said.

With regards to the Boots acquisition, Wasson said that throughout 2013 and beyond, Walgreens will work at development an efficient and global platform.

“We are bringing together two iconic brands with a lot in common,” he said. “Boots is to Europe as Walgreens is to the U.S. In addition, with Alliance Boots bringing an integrated wholesale business to the table, we believe there is significant opportunity for supply chain efficiencies. Together we are well-positioned for growth as we create the first global pharmacy-led, health and well-being enterprise.”

"We believe if the pharmacist and nurse practitioners are allowed to practice at the top of their profession, our community pharmacies can provide a higher level of [community] healthcare services," Wasson said. "Our goal … is to step completely out of the drug channel as it exists today and [create] something new and unique," Wasson said.

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