Anthem ties-up with Walmart for over-the-counter drugs

The office building of health insurer Anthem is seen in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas

(Reuters) - Anthem Inc ANTM.N said on Monday it has partnered with Walmart Inc WMT.N to launch a program in January 2019 that will allow its Medicare Advantage plan customers to purchase over-the-counter medications from the retailer's stores and website.

Anthem said the program will provide OTC drugs and health-related items, such as first aid supplies, support braces, and pain relievers at reduced costs.

The Medicare Advantage plan, which competes with the traditional Medicare fee-for-service program, provides healthcare coverage to about 17 million Americans and is offered by insurers including UnitedHealth Group Inc UNH.N, and Aetna Inc AET.N.

Leerink analyst Ana Gupte said the collaboration emphasizes Anthem’s increasing focus and success on Medicare Advantage growth post the margin turnaround, adding the tie-up modestly dampens the likelihood of a near-term Humana deal or JV with Walmart.

Earlier this month, insurer Humana Inc HUM.N, which has a co-branded Medicare drug plan with Walmart, said it was looking to expand its tie-up with the retailer.

The Walmart-Humana partnership offers a prescription drug plan that saves up to 20 percent in drug costs for customers.

Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber