Walmart and spinal surgeries


Effective January 2019, Walmart requires employees to travel to designated hospitals and health systems for spinal surgery, according to the Wall Street Journal. This mandate was created to slash unnecessary procedures and reduce healthcare spending. They have directed employees to designated hospitals since 2013, when they began covering the cost of travel and treatment for employees who choose to go to a designated hospital for heart, hip, knee replacement and spinal procedures.  Walmart is self-insured and provides health benefits to more than one million people. 

Walmart discovered that 50 percent of its employees who volunteered to travel for spine surgery ended up not undergoing the procedure because they were not necessary.  They decided to change their policy when they discovered that half of the employees who traveled for treatment ended up not having surgery and that they didn't actually need the surgery recommended by their local doctors. 

Spine surgeries are among the US's most expensive procedure. At Mayo Clinic a spinal fusion costs $77,500.  With efforts to cut costs for procedures medically unnecessary, Walmart cut the price it would pay for surgeries performed by local physicians in half. 

When employees began traveling for surgery, surgeons told employees about other options, such as physical therapy and injections. 


(Evans. Wall Street Journal, 11/14) (Advisory Board, 11/18) (Beckers Hospital Review 11/18)