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Wal-Mart plans to add 400 US health clinics

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, plans to open health clinics in as many as 400 US stores in the next three years by leasing space to local hospitals or other medical providers.

The number could reach as high as 2,000 in five to seven years, the company said yesterday. Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., started testing clinics in September 2005 and now operates 76 in 12 states

The clinics will be staffed by nurse practitioners or doctors and offer preventive and routine care such as allergy treatments and physicals, typically costing $40 to $65. Drugstore chains CVS/Caremark Corp. and Walgreen Co. have also opened clinics to attract customers who don't want to make a doctor's appointment or don't have medical insurance.

Wal-Mart, which has about 3,400 US stores, said more than half the patients at its clinics don't have health insurance. About 15 percent say they would have gone to a hospital emergency room if the clinics weren't available.

The companies that operate the clinics decide whether to accept insurance plans, Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Gardner said in an e-mail. Many of the offices are open seven days and week and offer walk-in appointments.

The initial group of clinics was operated by companies including Aurora Quick Care, Check Ups, MedPoint Express, and My Healthy Access. Gardner declined to say which companies would operate the new clinics.