Wal-Mart adds $670,000 to health-care program

Posted: January 10, 2013 at 7:04 a.m.
Updated: January 10, 2013 at 6:32 p.m.

Gov. Mike Beebe speaks Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, at the state Capitol on the Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative.

— Wal-Mart has joined a major effort to improve the way health-care costs are handled in the state, officials announced Thursday at the state Capitol.

Gov. Mike Beebe, state Surgeon General Joe Thompson and Wal-Mart Senior Vice President of Benefits Sally Welborn said the Bentonville-based retailer has joined the Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative and has committed $670,000 to create an annual tracking report to evaluate the impact on the health changes.

The effort is aimed at moving away from a fee-for-service model to one in which insurers pay for “episodes” of care rather than individual treatments.

Beebe said the initiative, which is now in its first phase of implementation, is aimed at reducing or flattening the cost of health-care.

The changes are intended to curb the growing costs of the state’s health-care system.

"In other words, not the 8, 10 percent increase every year," Beebe said. "All this is designed to try to slow down those inflationary pressures that we've all experienced in health-care costs."

Beebe called this the start of the work and said it may take some time before results are seen. And he praised Wal-Mart for its support.

"We have worked for the past two years to bring the public and private sectors together in order to provide better health care in more cost-efficient ways," Beebe said in a statement. "It's critical that large, self-insured companies like Wal-Mart be involved in this complex work that has the potential to serve as a model for the rest of the nation."

In addition to underwriting the tracking report, Wal-Mart will serve on the newly created APII Employer Advisory Council, and fund the development and dissemination of information that explains how payments are being restructured, the statement said.

"We are very supportive of this work that will reward doctors, hospitals and other providers who offer great care at an appropriate cost," Welborn said. "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."

The state began rolling out the payment changes in July. The state partnered with Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and QualChoice of Arkansas on the initiative.

Information for this article was contributed by the Associated Press and by Gavin Lesnick of ArkansasOnline.