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Screw Obamacare; Walmart Has You Covered
By: Maryann Fabian
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Please tell Congress and the president that someone figured out the whole healthcare thing so they can put that aside and get back to work. Now we just need to get jobs at Walmart or Lowe's.

In a joint statement issued yesterday, Walmart and Lowe’s announced a new national Employer’s Centers of Excellence Network formed with several other firms and the Pacific Business Group on Health Negotiating Alliance. What's that mean? To start, how about the ability to provide free knee and hip-replacement surgeries? Yep. And transplants or heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic — the best names in healthcare. No deductible. No co-pay.

What’s the catch? Employees must use either Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, MD.; Kaiser Permanente Orange County Irvine Medical Center in Irvine, CA.; Mercy Hospital in Springfield, MO.; or Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, WA. And what happens if you don’t live near one of these centers or the Mayo Clinic? Employees get travel, lodging, and living expenses for the patient and a caregiver.

“This national program is about providing our associates with exceptional care and reducing their medical costs so that they pay nothing out of pocket when they use one of the designated facilities,” said Sally Welborn, SVP of global benefits at Walmart.

Lowe’s VP of international human resources, Randy Moon, brought up another good point: “This is especially important for our employees who live in areas underserved by high quality health care providers.”

It involves a new way of thinking. Instead of going to your local hospital, you go to a hospital that specializes in the surgery you need. But by forming partnerships with specialty hospitals, employers and employees find a win-win. Companies get lower costs and employees get high quality care. Better outcomes benefit both parties.

Walmart began their Centers of Excellence program in 2006 when it struck up a relationship with the Mayo Clinic. Since then, employees who have needed a transplant or cardiac care or spinal surgery have been able to travel there for treatment, free of charge.

Is there hope for the rest of us? A 2011 survey by Aon Hewitt found that 28% of large firms, including Boeing, have already formed their own Centers of Excellence and 39% more are planning to start within the next five years.  

By the way, if you’re thinking the headline is harsh, just consider the insulting phone number Health & Human Services launched for people who have questions about signing up for healthcare coverage. It spells out 1-800-F1UCK-YO

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About the Author
Maryann Fabian is a copywriter who has crafted the voice of some of this country's best brands.
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