In the latest Walmart/health insurance-related development, Sam’s Club announced Oct. 23 that it is opening a private health insurance exchange for its members, intended to help its core small business-owner customers provide health insurance for their employees.
The announcement was made as part of a new “suite of services to help America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners save money and time on vital day-to-day business needs,” according to a news release from Sam’s Club, which is a division of Walmart Stores, Inc. Other introductions included new programs and partnerships for payroll and HR, legal solutions, travel and payment processing.
“The Aetna Marketplace for Sam’s Club” is the first mass retail-supported private health care exchange designed to meet the needs of both the small business owner and their employees, according to Sam’s Club. Through the program, Sam’s Club business members with two or more employees in 18 states have exclusive access to personalized plan tools and resources from Aetna at SamsClub.com/healthcare.
The program is intended to provide “enhanced cost control and budget predictability, simplified administration and easy-to-use tools to help employees choose the plan that best meets their needs,” the Sam’s Club release says. “With live access to dedicated support for small business owners and their employees, Aetna Marketplace offers a guided retail shopping experience that provides more choice than the typical health care purchasing experience.”
The new private insurance marketplace venture is being touted as part of a broader attempt to build customer loyalty to remain competitive with other membership programs such as Costco and Amazon Prime. Costco already offers aprivate insurance marketplace in nine states for its members, with the difference being the Sam’s Club marketplace is geared specifically to appeal to small business owners that make up about 70% of its business membership customers.
The exchange is available in Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Maine, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Employers with two or more employees can choose to offer a defined contribution plan or one that gives workers a flat, pre-tax contribution to apply toward a plan of their choice.
In a recent conference call with reporters, Rosalind Brewer, chief executive officer of Sam’s Club, said the initiative to offer the private exchange was based on customer research that found confusion over health insurance plans was a leading issue occupying small business owners’ time.
The move comes on the heels of sister brand Walmart’s new “Healthcare Begins Here” program offering customers in-store assistance enrolling in an insurance plan.
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