Walmart to implement mandatory travel policy for employees' spine surgeries


Effective January 2019, Walmart will require employees to travel to designated hospitals and health system for spine surgery, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The mandate was created to slash unnecessary procedures and reduce healthcare spending. Walmart has directed employees to designated hospitals since 2013. However, not all employees are traveling to designated centers.

Walmart discovered 50 percent of its employees who volunteered to travel for spine surgery ended up not undergoing the procedures because they were not necessary. While the retail giant declined to release financial figures from the mandate, it's believed big savings may be on the horizon.

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

By slashing what it would pay for surgeries, more employees began traveling for surgery, and while some local physicians said employees needed surgery, at the designated hospitals, surgeons told employees about other options, such as physical therapy and injections.

Walmart recommends employees travel to Mayo Clinic, Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger and Houston-based Memorial Hermann Health System hospitals. Walmart also has the same travel policy for transplant procedures.

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