September 25, 2019

Walmart will offer its employees degrees in health care—for $1 a day

Daily Briefing

    Walmart on Tuesday announced that it will offer its employees the opportunity to pursue bachelor's degrees and diplomas in health care for just $1 a day through the company's existing higher education program.

    New report: Who are the innovative disruptors in health care?

    About Walmart's high education program

    Walmart's Live Better U program launched in 2018 to offer degrees to Walmart employees who do not have an associates or bachelor's degree. The program started with business degrees and has since expanded to other fields, including supply chain and technology.

    Under the program, employees can enroll in certain associate or bachelor's degree programs at one of six non-profit universities. Employees contribute $1 per day toward their education, and Walmart handles the rest.

    So far, 13,000 people are enrolled in the Live U program, and Walmart projects at least 50,000 people will enroll over the next five years.

    Walmart's new $1 per day health care degrees

    Now, Walmart says it will offer seven health-care related bachelor's degrees and two health care-related diploma programs through the Live Better U program.

    The diploma programs will focus on pharmacy technicians and opticians, and will be offered through Penn Foster College.

    The health care degrees will be in the health sciences, health and wellness, and health care management/administration fields. Those degrees will be offered through Bellevue University, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, and Wilmington University.

    Walmart said it hopes the new educational offerings will help the company fill the growing demand for health care jobs within the company. Walmart has 5,000 pharmacies, 3,000 vision centers, and 400 hearing centers, including through Sam's Club.

    Walmart's advance into health care

    The move marks Walmart's latest step into health care. About five years ago, the company launched in-store Care Clinics in Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas.

    Since then, Walmart has opened a dentist office at one store, which provides dental services as well as blood pressure and weight checks, and in 2018, it leased space in one of its Texas locations to the behavioral health company Beacon Health Options to address the shortage of mental health professionals in the region. 

    In addition, the company in August 2018 partnered with health insurer Anthem to provide patients enrolled in Anthem's Medicare Advantage plans access to some over-the-counter medications at Walmart locations. Walmart operates one of the country's biggest pharmacy chains, according to CNBC.

    Most recently, Walmart opened its first standalone clinic in Georgia, called Walmart Health.

    The company is the largest private employer in the United States, employing about 1.5 million people.

    Drew Holler, SVP of associate experience for Walmart's U.S. division, in a release announcing the new higher education programs said that the retailer "aim[s] to be a market leader in providing careers in things like health care."

    Thomas Van Gilder, Walmart CMO, said, "Our presence in thousands of communities gives us a unique opportunity to provide access to affordable health care to millions of people, and we need trained associates in order to do so." He added, "As our health and wellness strategy and offerings continue to evolve, Live Better U will play a critical role in preparing our associates across the country for future work opportunities in the growing health care field" (Reuters, 9/24; Thomas, CNBC, 9/24; La Roche, Yahoo! Finance, 9/24; Walmart release, 9/24; Landi, FierceHealthcare, 9/24).

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