Reigniting speculation that Walmart and insurer Humana are exploring ways to forge a closer partnership, Walmart Inc. has hired a Humana veteran to run its health care business, according to a report from Bloomberg.
In an article posted July 16, Bloomberg reporter Matthew Boyle reported that Walmart named Sean Slovenski as senior vice president of health and wellness, reporting directly to Greg Foran, who runs the company’s U.S. business, citing a July 12 internal memo from Foran.
“The appointment is effective Aug. 1. Slovenski spent three years at Humana, rising to become vice president of innovation, and most recently worked for a digital-health company that also partners with Walmart,” Boyle reported.
Back in March, a Wall Street Journal report speculated that Walmart Inc. was in preliminary talks to buy Humana, “according to people familiar with the matter,” as reported by Healthcare Informatics Managing Editor Rajiv Leventhal. These reports came only two months after CVS Health announced it was acquiring Aetna for $69 billion. Retail companies are more and more now looking to position themselves in the healthcare space, especially with the ever-increasing presence of Amazon. Also in March, insurer Cigna announced it plans to buy Express Scripts, the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit manager, in a $52 billion deal.
According to that March WSJ report, “It isn’t clear what terms the companies may be discussing, and there is no guarantee they will strike a deal. If they do, the deal would be big: Humana currently has a market value of about $37 billion.” And Walmart, “which in addition to being the world’s biggest retailer is also a major drugstore operator, has a market value of about $260 billion,” according to the piece.
In this latest Bloomberg article, this latest hiring move comes as Walmart and Humana explore ways to deepen their alliance to provide health care to consumers, a person familiar with the matter said in March.
Boyle noted that Walmart has been looking to expand its health business for years and could use a partnership with an insurer to take on a more powerful role in the delivery of medications to consumers. And, he cited Foran as writing in the internal memo: “Because of its strategic importance, we’ve decided to put more focus on our Health & Wellness business in the near term.”
According to the Bloomberg article, Slovenski was most recently president of the population health business at Healthway, now part of Sharecare Inc., a digital health company. Walmart recently teamed up with Sharecare to give employees access to resources to monitor their health, and Sharecare will play a part in the retailer’s in-store Wellness Days for customers, where it offers free health screenings, the article states. Slovenski also ran Care Innovations, a healthcare partnership between Intel Corp. and General Electric, according to Boyle.