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Can Sam's Club Lead Health Care Reform?

Partnering with U.S. Preventive Medicine, Sam's Club just started offering The Prevention Plan, a $99 program that allows individuals and business owners to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Is this the future of health care?

Can Sam's Club Lead Health Care Reform?

The Prevention Plan

Forget about the supposed job-killing health care legislation. According to U.S. Preventive Medicine (USPM) and discount retailer Sam's Club, there’s a way for individuals and small business owners to take matters in their own hands while they shop. And it's based in Benjamin Franklin's 300-year-old adage: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Sam's Club is selling those doses as part of its $99 Prevention Plan.


The problem, U.S. Preventive Medicine chairman and CEO Christopher Fey tells Fast Company, is that while it’s always been widely acknowledged that prevention works, approaches to wellness have been as varied as the companies and individuals who promote them.

"Someone needed to create a ubiquitous, standardized platform," Fey says, "Prevention is a board-certified discipline and we put it into a branded product." Alternately referring to the Prevention Plan as the BluRay or Microsoft Outlook of preventative care, Fey explains it’s an accessible online system that’s easy for individuals to use and stick with, no matter how they’re wired.

For the cost of membership ($40 to $100 per year) and a $99 one-time fee for the plan, Sam’s Club’s customers can purchase a package that allows them to take a health assessment exam online and do an at-home blood test. Then they’ll get a personalized program, using data and procedures certified by the American Medical Association, that targets their individual health risks. Personal health coaching and a variety of tools and challenges to provide the guidance and motivation to manage and even mitigate those risks are all included in the deal.

Sam’s Club spokeswoman Christi Gallagher tells Fast Company, "We wanted to offer our customers a way to lead healthier lives," and ostensibly take control of their health care while shopping for three-month supplies of toilet and printer paper. This is especially important for small business owners who may not have access to affordable insurance plans for their employees. And Gallagher says Sam’s Club has many small business owners who shop for both corporate and personal needs in the same trip.

Fey says the ongoing support is a critical component of the success of the program. People might know they need to lose weight or stop smoking, but the Prevention Plan offers a way to keep nudging them towards those goals. "You see a doctor once a year. We are there for the other 364 days," he asserts.

He’s got the numbers to back it up. Even though Sam’s Club is the first retailer to partner with USPM, the Prevention Plan was introduced two years ago. Fey says distribution channels include insurance brokers and larger businesses, but one of its biggest user groups is the state of Nevada which offers the plan to all its employees.

A study led by Ronald Loeppke, M.D., M.P.H., showed significant reductions in ten of the health risks measured. The most noticeable changes included a nearly 43% reduction in the proportion of employees with high-risk blood pressure, a 31% decrease among those with high-risk fasting blood sugar, and nearly 25% of those at high-risk for stress. Additionally, Fey cites economic studies that prove a $2.70 return on every dollar spent on preventative care.

Results like that, says Fey, helped Sam’s Club execs buy into offering the program after more than a year of deliberation. "They did an elaborate review of what was available in the marketplace. And they consistently said, 'We want to help our members improve their quality of life.'" Early response has been enthusiastic according to Gallagher who declined to discuss actual numbers.

So while the health care debate rages in Washington, Sam’s Club is taking a preventative measure of its own—against the competition. Though no other retail outlet is offering the Prevention Plan, drugstore chains such as CVS and Walgreen’s are taking a bite out of the primary care market. Each drugstore chain launched its own in-store mini-clinics staffed with nurse practitioners over the past two years. As  the law and its future iterations transform healthcare, it’s clear we’re going to need as many affordable primary care providers as we can find.

And that’s why Fey believes the Prevention Plan will transform the economy, too. He’s argued on the Hill that the healthcare legislation isn’t going to cut jobs. In fact, with USPM’s goal is "to make the world a healthier place," it will create them. The company’s already expanded into the U.K. and has plans to roll out to Australia this year as well. China will follow as will translations of the Prevention Plan into Spanish and Mandarin. USPM will add 100 jobs this year, he observes.

"We may not be able to put all 308 million people in America on the plan, but by teaming up with Sam’s Club and other big organizations, we can certainly get the message in front of every person," Fey says.

Don’t you feel better already?