NEW YORK — Walmart's Sam's Club is teaming up with several health care companies to offer discounts on routine care that customers might delay or skip because of the cost.
Starting next month, Sam's Club members in Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina will be able to buy bundles of health care services that include discounted dental care, free prescriptions for certain generic medications, and telehealth consultations.
Fees range from $50 for individuals to $240 for up to six family members. The pilot program could potentially expand to all states, said Lori Flees, senior vice president of Sam's Club Health and Wellness.
The move comes as health care expenses place a growing strain on the budgets of many families and individuals, even those that have insurance coverage. Sam's Club emphasized that the new initiative is not a health insurance plan but a discount health program designed to supplement insurance and bring down the costs patients pay out of pocket.
Annual deductibles for single coverage in employer-sponsored health plans have doubled over the past decade and now average $1,655 among plans that have deductibles, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. These deductibles, which a patient has to pay before most coverage starts, can be much higher for families and for individual plans purchased outside an employer.
Sam's Club, where members pay an annual fee to shop, says its program is designed to cater to individuals, business owners and families who are delaying or skipping basic care because of high deductibles.
"We are lowering the barrier for people to take care of themselves," Flees said.
Each bundle offers savings on dental services with a network of providers through the health insurer Humana as well as unlimited telehealth for $1 per visit through a Seattle-based company called 98point6. The bundles also offer discounted vision exams and optical products. The number of free generic prescriptions ranges from five to 20 of the most popular medications, depending on what the member chooses.