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Wal-Mart Wants To Be Your Doctor With New In-Store Clinics

Wal-Mart opened health care clinics in six of its stores last week and hopes to open more by the end of the year.

By Ben Lawson | August 10, 2014

Groceries, clothes, school supplies —  you can get everything at Wal-Mart — and soon that might include health care.

The retail giant recently opened up six health care clinics inside some of its stores in Texas and South Carolina and it plans to open another six by the end of the year. 

This isn't Wal-Mart's first stab at the health care industry — they've made deals with local health care providers to put clinics in their stores in the past, but the efforts have been hit and miss.

But this time the clinics are fully owned by Wal-Mart and staffed by nurse practitioners, medical assistants and physicians.

CVS and Walgreens already have urgent care centers at some of their stores, but the Wal-Mart clinics are being marketed as primary care facilities, capable of treating common illnesses as well as chronic diseases such as diabetes.

A visit to one of these locations will cost just $40 plus lab fees. For employees, it's even lower — just $4 a visit. 

Fortune points out Wal-Mart is targeting rural areas for their test-markets, where health care options are limited and many people are newly insured under the Affordable Care Act. 

A health care official explained to Forbes how Wal-Mart's model for cheap health-care could work well in those areas. “Both Texas and South Carolina have primary care access problems, [but] interestingly, the access problem is specifically related to cost. And neither state is expanding Medicaid, so both will continue to have a group of uninsured who will prioritize cost when seeking care."

At these clinics patients will often see nurse practitioners, who can prescribe most of the same medication as a doctor but receive less training.

That training gap is one of the reasons some doubt the ability of these facilities to treat complicated conditions like diabetes. They argue patients will benefit better from sticking with one doctor who understands them and their illness.

The success of these clinics remains to be seen, and Wal-Mart hasn't said if it plans to implement them on a larger scale. 

This video contains images from Getty Images.

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