Walmart forms insurance agency

Walmart Inc. has formed an insurance agency in Texas that will sell Medicare-related products and services, broadening its foray into the health care business.

The Bentonville-based retailer is holding a "virtual hiring event" on Thursday to find "several Medicare Insurance Agents" to work for its new company, Walmart Insurance Services LLC, according to postings on Walmart's Careers website and the job-search site

Starting the first week of August, the new hires will enroll customers in Medicare health insurance plans over the phone. The full-time licensed agents will work from a Dallas-area call center, but also have the option to work remotely, according to the job description.

The company also is looking for a Medicare sales supervisor, sales manager and sales trainer, as well as a quality assurance worker to monitor the sales calls. All will have a work-from-home option.

"Walmart strives to be a center of well-being in the communities we serve, and we have a unique, brand new opportunity to help millions of people find the best Medicare insurance available," the job descriptions state. "We need passionate health insurance professionals to help us build this new business from the ground up and achieve our mission. By joining our new team, you will be part of the first to experience this adventure as we grow this business."

Walmart Insurance Services is a subsidiary of Walmart Apollo LLC, "the intellectual property holding company" of Walmart Inc., according to court filings involving trademarks and patents. Dun & Bradstreet lists Walmart Apollo as also being based in Bentonville.

Walmart did not immediately respond Monday to a request for more information about the new venture.

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older, as well as younger people with disabilities. Medicare health plans are offered by private companies that contract with Medicare to provide hospital and medical insurance benefits.

Walmart's insurance company is the latest development in a string of moves the company has made recently into the lucrative health care market. Its most recent and highest profile undertaking is the handful of Walmart Health centers it started opening late last year.

Walmart now has four primary care clinics, including one in Springdale that opened June 24. More locations in Georgia, which now has three Walmart Health centers, will open this year, said Sean Slovenski, senior vice president of health and wellness for Walmart U.S.

Making many key medical services available under one roof and for a flat fee is part of Walmart's goal to help more people access affordable health care, Slovenski said in a news release.

Walmart has allowed agents from individual insurers to set up in its stores to answer questions and enroll customers since at least 2005. Money magazine reported in 2014 that the arrangement was aimed at increasing foot traffic to stores in hopes that customers would shop and spend money while they were there.

But Walmart Insurance Services will enable the company to sell directly to customers for the first time.

With health care expenditures now making up about 18% of the U.S. gross domestic product, it's not surprising that Walmart and others are exploring ways to expand their presence in that sector, said Dr. Joe Thompson, president and Chief Executive Officer of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement.

However, retailers such as CVS Health Corp., Target Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. have kept their focus on trying different models for offering primary medical care. So far, none have ventured into selling health insurance.

Walmart Insurance Services LLC is considered a Delaware company but registered to do business in Arkansas on June 26, according to the Arkansas Secretary of State's office.

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