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Wal-Mart teams with DirectHealth to lift healthcare sign-ups at stores

Wal-Mart teams with DirectHealth to lift healthcare sign-ups at stores
DirectHealth agents will be staffed inside 2,700 Wal-Mart stores, including 29 in Los Angeles County and 212 across California. (Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg)

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is launching expanded healthcare sign-ups at many of its stores, including hundreds of locations in California.

The retail giant said Monday that it has partnered with DirectHealth.com, an insurance agency and online comparison site. DirectHealth agents will be staffed inside 2,700 stores, including 29 in Los Angeles County and 212 across California.

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Wal-Mart will roll out a nationwide advertising campaign as early as this week and agents will be in stores beginning Friday until Dec. 7, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Molly Blakeman said.

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target Corp. have sought to capitalize on the millions of newly insured Americans.

The partnership with DirectHealth.com is Wal-Mart's latest healthcare push. This year, the Bentonville, Ark., company opened a handful of Wal-Mart-branded clinics in the South, under a pilot program.

For nearly a decade, the retailer has had agents from individual insurers in stores. But Blakeman said customers wanted more options, leading to the partnership with DirectHealth. For those ages 65 and older, in-store agents can enroll customers in Medicare plans, Blakeman said.

For those under 65, the agents will help customers sign up through healthcare exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, she said.

Blakeman said Wal-Mart is focused on the project rollout this year, and will evaluate whether to bring it back for next year's open enrollment.

The healthcare initiative comes as the retail giant sees sluggish U.S. sales. The company said sales at U.S. stores open at least a year, a key measure of retail health, were flat in its second quarter.

Wal-Mart shares Monday rose 3 cents, or 0.04%, to $77.35.

Twitter: @khouriandrew

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