How Employers Are Fixing Health Care


A 56-year-old man who works at Walmart — we’ll call him Bill — had been suffering from mild neck pain for years. Recently the pain had worsened, and his wife noticed a subtle tremor in his hands. An MRI showed some narrowing of the spinal column along with disc degeneration. A local surgeon explained that Bill’s best option was spine surgery.

Bill had two choices. He could have the surgery at his community hospital and absorb deductibles and co-pays. Or he could enter Walmart’s travel surgery program and fly with his wife to a top spine center in another state, all costs covered. Bill opted for the travel plan.

Two weeks later the couple headed to Danville, Pennsylvania, for an evaluation at Geisinger Medical Center. The team there immediately noticed Bill’s tremor and some shuffling as he walked. They suspected the problem wasn’t his neck. A neurologist saw him that day and confirmed the team’s suspicions: Bill had Parkinson’s disease.

The team conferred with Bill’s local doctors to map out a plan of care. The next morning Bill and his wife flew home, and he began treatment, which was covered under Walmart’s standard plan. He paid exactly zero for a correct diagnosis and avoided potentially dangerous surgery that wouldn’t have helped — and Walmart saved about $30,000 by averting the unnecessary procedure. Bill’s symptoms have dramatically improved, and he’s returned with new energy to his hobbies and work.