Wal-Mart to Offer Free Legal Support to Medicaid Patients

The nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, recently announced  it will provide free legal support for Medicaid patients and their families. This is the first time in the company’s history that it will be interacting with the government’s public health insurance system in this way.

Wal-Mart Partners with Arkansas Children’s Hospital

Wal-Mart has announced it will be partnering with the Arkansas Children’s Hospital to provide legal support to Medicaid patients free of charge. In the arrangement, Wal-Mart’s lawyers will take on the government and other entities to help sick children gain access to programs, equipment and services that they may have been denied under the program.

Jeff Gearhart, Wal-Mart’s general counsel, recently announced the company’s in-house team of 142 lawyers will help patients with a variety of issues associated with Medicaid. For instance, he noted lawyers might tackle Medicaid’s administrative and bureaucratic hurdles–the red tape patients encounter when visiting a hospital for care.

He explained lawyers will also be trained to help families navigate Medicaid in basic ways like filling out the right forms, as well as for more complex matters like procuring insurance for expensive treatments or medical devices like specialized wheelchairs.

Because the bulk of the cases attorneys will work on will be resolvable through due diligence and rarely require litigation, Gearhart said the company can work for a few hours of pro bono legal time.

Services Could Expand Medicaid Options for Families

Currently, the program is only being offered via the pilot project with the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Gearhart said if the pilot is success, the company could expand the partnership nationwide so that it works with other hospitals, companies and law firms in a similar way.

This could be of great benefit to the large number of Medicaid patients who reportedly don’t have access to the same treatment options as patients with private coverage.

A report released in June by researchers in Illinois found that medical specialists were more likely to deny treatment to patients on Medicaid than those with private insurance largely due to the low reimbursement rates and delayed payments. The same was revealed a month earlier in a study conducted on dentists.

Wal-Mart has expressed hope that issues like this can be resolved through its free legal support while simultaneously providing patients with the knowledge necessary to make the most of their Medicaid coverage.