Sam's Club's $99 Health Package: Don't Mistake It for Real Insurance

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Sam's Club Offers a $99 Health PackageSam's Club, the discount warehouse owned by Walmart (WMT), has begun selling a basic health package called the Prevention Plan this month. The $99 plan is offered via U.S. Preventive Medicine, a privately owned Florida company offering wellness programs. But it's not an actual health insurance plan: It's a personalized health-management program that gives consumers access to tools to help evaluate their health.

The $99 annual fee includes an annual subscription to a Web-based program used to identify potential health risks, as well as at-home blood tests to help identify potential health problems.

The information users provide is used to create a personalized prevention plan to improve health. Members also receive two health-coaching sessions and access to a 24-hour-a-day nurse line. The plan is open to all three types of Sam's Club members, although they need to sign up online rather than in stores.

Good for Small Businesses

While it may not seem like a natural fit for a wholesaler to offer a health benefits package, Sam's Club spokeswoman Christi Gallagher said the company's goal is to bring in new members, retain old ones and result in increased revenue. "This made sense for us because our members are looking for solutions to stay on top of their health, so we are constantly looking for new things to bring into our club," said Gallagher.

Sam's Club hasn't disclosed projected revenues or sign-up goals for the program, although Gallagher said that so far, they are very pleased with the results of the Prevention Plan, which is particularly appealing to small businesses.

"Many of our small business owners may not be able to provide the breadth of coverage larger companies can offer, so this is a solution they can offer employees that also helps them stay in control of their health care costs," she said. "Our primary focus is to help members become aware of their health and learn about programs we offer to help them reduce health care costs, because they might identify and treat a problem before it gets to severe or even prevent a problem from developing."

Wellness Screenings Are Also Available

This is the first time the Prevention Plan has been sold in a retail environment, although U.S. Preventive Medicine has offered it to employers for two years. The plan is also available to people who aren't Sam's Club members for $229 per person per year.
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To date, tens of thousands of people have signed up for the Prevention Plan through their employers, according to U.S. Preventive Medicine spokeswoman Trish Kapustka. Judging by the success of the program in the corporate market, the plan could prove to be a boon for the Walmart unit, which has 47 million members.

In a separate initiative launched in 2010, Sam's Club stores offered free quarterly health screenings for members and nonmembers. In 2011, the screenings will be offered on a monthly basis. Each month, Sam's Club stores will offer different screenings, including blood pressure checkups, bone density scans, body mass index assessments, cholesterol and glucose tests and hearing and vision screenings.

It's important to note that consumer health advocates caution that these types of preventive health programs should not be used as a substitute for regular medical checkups.
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