Walmart-Humana partnership being discussed

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, and health insurer Humana are discussing a possible partnership or merger, a business deal that would transform the duo into a powerhouse health care team.

Like drugstore chain CVS, who is currently in the process of purchasing health insurer Aetna Inc. for $68 billion, Walmart could benefit from a partnership with an insurer to take on a more powerful role in the delivery of medications to consumers. While Walmart has a growing online retail presence, the company also has many shoppers who rely on its brick and mortar stores and 4,700 pharmacies.

A marriage between Walmart and Humana might also help Walmart, the largest private employer in the country with 1.5 million employees, save on its own employee insurance costs. Walmart has been buying health care for its employees directly from providers in six different regions bypassing insurers who usually negotiate with doctors and hospitals. The idea has been to squeeze out middlemen and drive down costs in the same way that Walmart’s tough bargaining has brought down prices for shoppers.