Walmart Will Close All 51 Health Centers Leaving a Gap in Care Access

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: Apr 30, 2024

After pushing to make an entrance into the healthcare system, Walmart will now be closing all of their 51 locations of their clinics around six states.

News of the closures have left many residents feeling that they will be left without care in the near future.

Walmart’s Entrance Into Healthcare

In 2020, Walmart made its debut into the healthcare system in the United States. The company added 51 health centers in six states to help underserved community without adequate medical clinics. 

The exterior of a large health clinic surrounded by snow on the ground

Source: Alina Health/Wikipedia Commons

As well, the company also added a large number of doctors to act as virtual health care providers for those in rural areas through telemedicine for those who lacked access to doctors.

Services Offered Through the Big Box Store

Within the Walmart health care locations, patients could expect all the necessary treatments available at a standard walk-in clinic or general practitioner’s office.

An aerial view of a large department store with a black roof and a large parking lot filled with cars

Source: Public Domain/Wikipedia Commons

The company rolled out services for primary care, urgent care, labs, X-rays, behavioral health, and even dental work.

States That Will Be Affected by the Closures

During a time when many people struggle to find a primary care doctor, the closures of the clinics are sure to be felt within each community.

An empty road with small houses and red trees and high rises in the background

Source: Brandon Johnson/Unsplash

The state’s that will no longer have access to Walmart health centers are Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri and Texas.

Patients Left a Gap in Their Healthcare Providers

The clinics in these areas were booked and filled with patients on a daily basis.

A surgeon wearing a green surgical cap, blue mask, and green scrubs holds her hand by her face in front of two people

Source: Li Lin/Unsplash

Now that one of the few clinics open in some rural and underserved areas has closed, residents are left wondering where they will receive care from. Many of the patients who accessed the Walmart health centers were underinsured or or low income.

Harvard Researches Note How the Closures Will Affect Communities

Ateev Mehrotra, a professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School, has been studying the effects of the health clinics in small communities.

A balding man wearing a pinstriped brown suit with a yellow tie smiling

Source: @LearnTelehealth/X

They state that the reason why Walmart clinics were so successful was that the communities they chose were underserved with health care access. Even something as simple as a dental cleaning can greatly improve someone’s life in a rural community.


Massive Challenge To Find Primary Care Givers in the U.S.

Mehrotra went on to deliver statistics that up to 55,000 primary care doctors are needed in the next decade to cover residents throughout the country.

A woman ties her facial mask on while wearing a red and white surgical cap and blue scrubs

Source: SJ Obijo/Unsplash

As the population continues to grow in the United States, more health care centers and doctors will be necessary. However, as many communities lack the appropriate resources, someone will need to fill the gap.


Clinic Closures Related to Lack of Profits

Walmart published a press release about the closures this week. Representative said that the company had to make a difficult decision because of lack of profits from the clinics.

The exterior of a Walmart in Asia with a large sky walk above it and bikes in front

Source: Dikun Chen/Wikipedia Commons

The company cited “challenging reimbursement environment and escalating operating costs.” They also alleged that the business model is simply unsustainable for them to continue operating.


Walmart To Continue Operating Pharmacies

As the pharmacies have been an integral part of Walmart stores for decades, they will continue to operate at a profit.

A Walmart pharmacy with one woman working behind the counter and one customer receiving care

Source: Mike Mozart/Wikipedia Commons

More than 4,600 pharmacies will remain open around the country. In addition, the company will continue to host over 3,00 vision and optical centers.


Health Care Looked Like a Big Opportunity in 2020

The clinics opened in early 2020 and were most likely in the planning stages well before the Covid-19 crisis landed in the United States.

A group of Walmart employees clapping alongside CEO Doug McMillon

Source: @NYSE/X

Initially, the company was excited to embark on a new venture. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in 2020 that he was excited for the big opportunity to expand their business.


Unsure of How Much Clinic Closures Were Related to Pandemic

It’s unclear how much of the closures were related to pandemic related illnesses.

The interior of a clinic doctor office with various medical equipment

Source: Benyamin Bohlouli/Unsplash

Walmart surely had no knowledge that such a deadly virus would ravage the American population. Upper respiratory infections are notoriously expensive and difficult to treat. This factor could have contributed to a lack of profits.


Medical Staff Shortage Among Big Issues For the Clinics

A major difficulty that Walmart soon discovered was that medical staff was extremely difficult to retain during a pandemic.

A group of surgeons wearing PPE work over a patient in an operating room

Source: National Cancer Institute/Unsplash

Even without the added strain of a global virus, doctors in the U.S. are already in short supply due to the difficulty of being accepted into medical school along with the ultra-exclusive matching program that trains each doctor in their specialty.