In its latest move to cut consumers’ health care costs and win their business, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has cut prices on contact lenses and children’s eyewear.

Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart Stores, eye care, eye care pricing, contact lenses, eyewear, 1-800 Contacts, John Agwunobi, health and wellness, Scot Meyer, Lee Scott, generic drug program, discount generic drug, health care, health clinics

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Wal-Mart reduces eye care pricing

April 6th, 2009

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – In its latest move to cut consumers’ health care costs and win their business, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has cut prices on contact lenses and children’s eyewear.

Wal-Mart is partnering with 1-800 Contacts, the world’s largest retailer of contact lenses, on a discount program that it says can save shoppers as much as 12% to 50% on the cost of a yearly supply of lenses.

“By offering greater accessibility and affordability, we believe the customer savings could reach $400 million during the first three years of this alliance,” says John Agwunobi, senior vice president at Wal-Mart and president of its health and wellness division.

Wal-Mart says it has also worked with suppliers to lower prices on eyeglasses for children under age 18. A pair of glasses, including frames and lenses, can now be purchased at Wal-Mart’s in-store vision centers for a total of $39 — about $20 less than the previous lowest price. The retailer is offering to replace the glasses free if they are damaged in the first year.

“No matter how bad the economy gets, families should never have to sacrifice their children’s ability to see the world in all its detail,” Agwunobi points out. “This offering draws directly from our commitment to help families save money so they can live better.”

Health care has been a major focus at Wal-Mart in recent years, as the retailer has looked for ways to bring customers to its stores more often.

In September 2006 Wal-Mart launched its discount generic drug program as a test in Tampa, Fla. Then president and chief executive officer Lee Scott said at the time that the program reflected Wal-Mart’s belief that it could use its strengths as an efficient, low-cost retailer to help make health care more affordable for Americans.

“Competition and market forces have been absent from our health care system, and that has hurt working families tremendously,” Scott said. “We are excited to take the lead in doing what we do best — driving costs out of the system — and passing those savings to our customers and associates.”

The initial program made 30-day supplies of 291 generic drugs available for just $4. Wal-Mart quickly rolled the program out from its test market and expanded its scope, adding new drugs to the list. Later it added a new wrinkle, offering 90-day supplies of drugs for $10.

Wal-Mart last year expanded the program again to cover some private label over-the-counter drugs as well.

In addition, the retailer has opened health clinics in many of its stores. Typically located in the front of the store, where Wal-Mart houses its vision centers and such businesses as bank branches and portrait studios, the clinics are designed to offer consumers convenient and low-cost treatment for common ailments.

The clinics, which also offer such services as cholesterol screening, help reinforce Wal-Mart’s reputation as a health-care destination.