Wal-Mart Spending $670,000 on Arkansas Health Care Initiative

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville announced Thursday that it will invest $670,000 in a new Arkansas health care program designed to reward doctors and hospitals who keep a lid on health care costs while providing high-quality care.

Part of the money will go to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement to develop a tracking system for the Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative, which will collect quality information and on costs for procedures, such as a knee replacement or a pregnancy.

Wal-Mart also will become the first self-insured employer to participate in the APII program. 

Currently, Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield, QualChoice, Medicaid and Medicare track quality and payment information on the five procedures that are targeted for payments for episodes rather than the traditional "fee-for-service" model that generates revenue for every patient contact and every procedure performed. This new reimbursement policy is expected to be the start of radical change in the delivery of health care. 

"There wasn't that resource to put it all together into one statewide report," Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Joe Thompson said Thursday after a news conference announcing Wal-Mart's investment.

With the tracking system in place, "we'll have all the data in one place to make sure we're looking at the whole picture," said Sally Welborn, Wal-Mart senior vice president of benefits.

ABCBS is the third-party administrator for Wal-Mart in Arkansas, which is self-insured and has about 57,000 covered lives in the state.

Welborn also said Thursday that Wal-Mart will serve on the APII Employer Advisory Council to encourage other employers to participate in the APII.

She said the patient won't know the difference, but "hopefully we'll all see better quality and lower costs."