What does retailer Walmart Inc., who has built a reputation for ruthless cost-cutting and obsessive customer analysis, want with Humana Inc. health insurance? The two are in early acquisition talks, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.
As with other recent healthcare pairings, the deal – should it go through – marks the pursuit of big data across all industries.
Customer data, a long-standing occupation of retailers, is increasingly viewed by healthcare leaders as a key factor in curbing rising healthcare costs.
In combination, this type of big data could be used to better sell Walmart
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retail products and services and manage the financial risks of Humana & # 39; s
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With both retail and healthcare companies under one roof, this could also help spark wellness initiatives for clients and health plan members Humana and Walmart have already worked together ,
"As the country's largest retailer and largest food vendor, Walmart is in a unique position to help consumers live healthier lives and make informed decisions, such as on nutrition," said Neil Saunders, General Manager of GlobalData Retail. As a potential health insurance owner, it would also be able to reward customers for healthy choices.
An indication that Walmart is keen to come from Walmart and Humana themselves.
Walmart has been working with Humana's wellness rewards program since 2012 to give discounts on healthier foods to customers who conclude it is an online health assessment.
Walmart calls it described as "the first of its kind" … the first national program to bring together a large retailer and a healthcare company to provide people with incentives for more nutrient-rich food choices. " Food eligible under the Walmart label" Great for You "must meet certain nutritional requirements and fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free Milc products and lean poultry and meat products.
"The resulting model is a win-win win: Walmart boosts sales of Great For You products, Go360 promotes a healthier lifestyle and lowers health care costs, and customers save money on healthier food options and can improve over time See health indicators such as high blood pressure and obesity, "said Walmart.
Related: Humana Share Tips Following Reports of Walmart Acquisition Talks [Technicallyspeakingtheprogram's"discounts"inpracticeareWalmartloanswhichcanbeusedforotherpurchases)Thiscreditcannotbespent-foodoreven-gasp!-unhealthyfoodsnotesafactsheet)
A link between the two companies might have similar goals, but on a broader scale and on a larger scale.
"You can use data to predict your customers' life expectancy, how they think about risks, how much they might cost if you insure them, and how you can increase their sense of well-being What types of decisions could I help them to improve long-term health? "Said Gurpreet Singh, head of the healthcare services sector for PwC.
Related: Cigna's $ 67 billion acquisition of Express Scripts will change the calculation of drug prices
Such a move would raise privacy issues, including concerns about penalties for those who do not to be judged as so-called healthy choices, Singh noted. But programs to improve healthy living would "hopefully be more of an opt-in scenario and reduce some of the disadvantages," he said.
Walmart's geographical reach, which is particularly concentrated in rural and suburban communities, would also be an asset when it comes to health and wellness, Singh said.
Diabetes is very prevalent in rural areas – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have designated part of the Southeastern US as a "diabetes belt" because of limited access to health care, health education and nutrition, poverty and other factors.
Limited access to healthy foods is also associated with other major public health problems in the US, including obesity, cancer, heart disease and strokes, notes the CDC.
But the jury still does not say how many individuals will change their day-to-day decisions when responding to business reviews.
In health research, wellness programs, especially those run by employers, have not looked very good.
Walmart shares slumped 9.9% in the last three months to Thursday and Humana shares rose 8.4% compared to 2.5% decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average
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and a 1.2% drop in the S & P 500
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