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Walmart, UnitedHealth Group Bring Several Behavioral Health Assets to New 10-Year VBC Partnership

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Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) will roll out a value-based care model at 15 Walmart Health locations in January 2023.

The two titans of their respective industries announced Wednesday that the new, 10-year-long partnership will serve “hundreds of thousands” of seniors on Medicare Advantage (MA) plans.

Behavioral health will be a fundamental part of the arrangement.

Walmart Health’s core services include behavioral health and community health workers, along with a range of services at one-stop outpatient health clinics, a spokesperson told Behavioral Health Business in an email. Additionally, through its subsidiaries, UnitedHealth Group can bring many behavioral health resources to the table.

Further, both companies are seeking to bring comprehensive services to patients to drift greater patient convenience and value for the care provided.

UnitedHealth Group has not responded to a BHB request for additional comment.

“We’re on a journey to transform health care, connecting more people to the right care at the right time — at a cost that makes sense,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in the announcement. “This collaboration puts the patient at the center of health care by leveraging the strength and complementary skill sets of our two companies to accelerate access to quality care.”

The partnership will involve 15 Walmart Health locations in Florida and Georgia. Walmart Health also operates in Arkansas and Illinois. In total, Walmart Health lists 19 locations.

It will also involve Walmart Health’s telehealth service, Walmart Health Virtual Care, which was created following Walmart Health’s acquisition of Phoenix, Arizona-based multi-specialty telehealth provider MeMD.

Through its health and business services entity Optum, UnitedHealth Group will provide Walmart Health providers tech tools for analytics and decision support. The services are meant to enhance Walmart’s team-based care model by allowing physicians to focus more on patient outcomes, the announcement states.

“UnitedHealth Group and Walmart share a deep commitment to high-quality and affordable primary care led services that address all of a patient’s health needs in ways that are convenient for them and improve health outcomes,” UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty said.

The deal will also include a co-branded MA plan in Georgia called UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage Walmart Flex (HMO-POS). It will likewise give UnitedHealthcare’s Choice Plus PPO plan access to Walmart Health Virtual Care.

Walmart is building comprehensive clinics in or near its supercenters. They offer primary care, labs, X-ray and EKG, behavioral health and counseling, dental, optical, hearing and other services, according to the Walmart Health webpage.

Specific to behavioral health, Walmart Health lists counseling services for several areas including depression, anxiety, stress, grievance and relationship issues. Select locations offer psychiatric services as well.

Walmart Health also lists individual, family and group counseling, as well as treatment for ADHD and alcohol use.

Walmart Health announced in April that it would integrate behavioral health services into its new diabetes management program to address co-morbid conditions. In the same month, it announced five new Walmart Health locations in Florida.

Meanwhile, Optum has been an active acquirer of many health care-related companies, including several behavioral health organizations.

In March, Optum acquired the burgeoning outpatient mental health provider Refresh Mental Health. Previous to that deal, Optum had already acquired the New York City-based company mental health startup AbleTo for $470 million and invested in virtual mental health provider Mindstrong.

UnitedHealth Group’s Witty told investors and analysts on United’s Q1 2022 earnings call that the Refresh Mental Health deal “fits right into that value-based proposition in terms of how we believe we need to bring behavioral health management alongside medical management.”

Refresh also “complements super nicely our largest behavioral health network that we already have across the country from the benefit side of the business,” Witty added.

As far as behavioral health is concerned, the bottom line is that Walmart and UnitedHealth Group have secured a new, long-term testing ground to see how their collection of health care services can play off each other to address whole-person health.

And when the two companies find success, they’ll be able to scale at a rapid pace.

“Clearly, these two organizations will have an ability to vastly scale whatever seems to work well,” an analyst note from Stephens explains.

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