COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Walmart is getting into the healthcare game.
A clinic will open in Sumter and Florence at the end of July that could drive down healthcare costs across the community.
If they're successful, the concept could spread.
"You hear articles and news stories all the time about how the cost of healthcare has skyrocketed, and it has. It's really a problem, and finding smart ways to get the cost down is important," said Dr. Jason Leonard with Colonial Family Practice.
Across town, you'd expect family physician Dr. Jason Leonard to fear the big-box competition, but that isn't the case.
"I really don't think so," Leonard said. "I think that it's a great thing that they're opening. I think that it really can take some pressure off the emergency room. There's so many non-emergent emergency room visits each year."
A Walmart spokeswoman told WIS a store in Florence, South Carolina and a handful in Texas will begin the pilot project called Walmart Care Clinic.
Employees will pay just $4, customers just $40 for access to medical care from screening and vaccinations to treatment of sicknesses and even chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.
"We have a nickname for these things," said Lynn Bailey with Lynn Bailey Associates. "We call them docs in a box. They're actually quite good at managing diabetics and hypertension and high cholesterol."
Bailey, a medical expert, thinks the Walmart clinics will spread as medical costs in the US continue to grow.
Total spending for healthcare reached $2.7 trillion in 2011, according to national health expenditures.
Walmart is promising a "new price position for retail health services."
"I call it convenience care," Bailey said. "It's care that fits most people's schedule. They don't have to make an appointment."
Back across town, Dr. Leonard is hoping the extra option will cut down on emergency room wait times too.
"When you go to the emergency room for a non-emergent visit, it increases the wait-time," Leonard said. "It increases resources and it also delays people who truly have an emergency from seeking care."
Walmart says the Care Clinics will accept insurance including Medicare. You can pay with cash, credit or checks.
According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, these clinics will also accept Medicaid.
Nurse practitioners will be able to write prescriptions.
The Sumter clinic is set to open on July 31.