Thursday, January 24, 2008

Breaking- Wal*Mart Enters Presidential Race (WMT; CVS; MHS; ESRX)

Okay, not breaking.
Last night (7:00 p.m.!?) Keith Johnson posted "Everyday Low Carbon" at the WSJ's Energy Roundup.
The WMT press release of the CEO Lee Scott's remarks sounded an awful lot like a stump speech:
...It is important for all of us to understand that there are a number of issues facing the world that will profoundly affect our lives and our company. I am talking to you about issues like international trade, climate change, water shortages, social and economic inequities, infrastructure and foreign oil.
Mr. Johnson focused on the energy segments of the speech (it is the Energy Roundup):
...Today we are announcing initial steps that we hope to achieve by 2010: every air conditioner that we sell in the U.S. will be Energy Star rated; and all our flat-panel televisions will be 30% more energy efficient. The energy savings on televisions alone would be enough to power over 53,000 single family homes for an entire year.

Price is perhaps the most important factor in helping motivate consumers to make the right decision. Unfortunately, energy efficient products – like environmentally friendly products – often come at a premium. We think we can change this. At Wal-Mart, we do not want our customers to have to choose between products they can afford and energy efficient products.
Here's where it gets interesting:
...Now let me turn to something that you might think is completely out there. I have been talking with the heads of the major auto manufacturers over the past few weeks. And I have been asking them if there is a place for Wal-Mart in the hybrid electric or plug-in electric car market, so our customers do not have to spend so much money filling up their gas tanks. Maybe there isn’t room for Wal-Mart in this right now. But something tells me that there may be some role for us in the future, and we are going to continue taking a look at this.

Let me throw another idea out there. What if we looked at whether Wal-Mart could provide eco- friendly energy to our customers? What could we do in the U.S. -- where per capita energy use is among the highest in the world?

Imagine your customers pulling into your parking lot, and seeing wind turbines and solar panels, and being able to charge their cars while they shop. I think that would make them feel good about shopping at your stores. It would also make them feel good if they could save money in the process. What if we fed the power generated by those wind turbines and solar powers back into the electrical grid? Just imagine the impact of our customers being able to buy eco-friendly energy at the unbeatable Wal-Mart price.
Earlier in the speech Mr. Lee spoke to healthcare:
More Affordable Health Care Through Efficiency

...Let me start with an area where we have made tremendous progress already, and that is health care. Earlier this week, we announced that our improved benefits have helped more Wal-Mart associates get health insurance this year. The number of associates with health insurance is up almost 3% and now stands at nearly 93%. This is excellent progress. Nationally, only 82% of American workers are insured.

But we have more opportunities to make a difference in health care for both our associates and our customers. What your company does best is exactly what the U.S. health care system needs the most. It needs more affordability. It needs more accessibility. It needs to be more efficient. And it needs leaders with a genuine desire to work together for positive change.

We think we can even do more with prescription costs. This year we will be contracting with select employers in the U.S. to help them manage how they process and pay prescription claims. Our approach will be based on taking out unnecessary costs while providing high quality health care products and services. With this effort, we believe we can save employers more than $100
million this year alone.

We also believe we can help with how prescriptions are filled. We will partner with doctors and other providers to increase the number of electronic prescriptions we fill in the U.S. to 8 million by the end of year. This will be a nearly 400% increase in e-prescriptions at Wal-Mart. There are an estimated 7,000 deaths per year due to medication errors. E-prescribing will be more convenient for our customers. But most importantly, it will be safer.

Another area in health care where we will apply our technological know-how is health records. Wal-Mart will provide electronic health records to U.S. associates and their family members – including retirees and including all of you – by the end of 2010. These records will be personal, private and portable. They will drive down costs and improve quality and safety.
Thanks to the anonymous commenter at the ER for the presidential politics idea.
Here's the Journal's story, if I were a pharmacy benefits manager I'd be a tad concerned:

Wal-Mart Targets Pharmacy Benefits