Humana CEO: 'We'll Continue To Build' Walgreens, Walmart Relationships

Humana headquarters is shown in downtown Louisville, Ky, on Feb. 23, 2017.Bruce Japsen photo

Humana said its relationships with Walgreens Boots Alliance and Walmart to establish closer ties with national retail healthcare providers is going well amid a new pilot program launched this year.

Humana is closely monitoring a now three-month old partnership with Walgreens that has placed “senior-focused primary care clinics” inside drugstores. The clinics are designed to complement Walgreens pharmacy services and Humana’s Partners in Primary Care centers that opened last year in Kansas City.

“(The) first thing that we’ve seen is that the convenience of the store is highly appreciative,” Humana CEO Bruce Broussard told analysts Wednesday on the company’s third-quarter earnings call. “We’ve seen that the traffic that goes into these particular clinics is more (and it) has increased as a result of the location and just the branding of it.”

The Walgreens partnership is key to Humana’s development as a health insurance company increasingly getting into the medical care provider business. It’s a strategy of rivals as well including UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurer which owns Optum, and CVS Health, which is finalizing its acquisition of Aetna, the nation’s third-largest health insurer.

Broussard says the early stages of Humana’s partnership with Walgreens are working to enhance the company’s profile as an insurer and provider. The relationships are part of an intensifying experiment to make sure patients get the right care, in the right place and at the right time as fee-for-service medicine gives way to value-based care.

“We do see Humana being more discussed as both from a health plan point of view, but also from just a primary care clinic point of view,” Broussard said. “So we are very positive and excited about the exposure it provides. We find that it does offer another opportunity for the retail side where they’ve seen increased urgent care visits in the back of the store.”

But Broussard said Humana and Walgreens will need more time to evaluate the relationship in Kansas City before expanding it nationally and may want to evaluate the partnership in other markets as well.

Walgreens also may not be the only retailer that Humana launches pilots and partnerships with, executives indicated. Humana grabbed headlines earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal in regard to discussions about an expanded relationship with Walmart, but nothing has publicly emerged.

Neither Humana nor Walmart has disclosed how it will expand their relationship that began 13 years ago when the insurer began in 2005 putting Humana sales agents for Medicare Part D drug plans in all of Walmart’s stores. But Humana executives have said they see Walmart as an additional opportunity given the size of Walmart stores, which are much larger than Walgreens.

“I think we have a great relationship with both Walmart and Walgreens and we’ll continue to build on that relationship,” Humana CEO Broussard said Wednesday.

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