I find Walmart to be a wholly disconcerting place. I just find it very strange that it sells tires, toothpaste, turkeys, tinsel and t-shirts all under the same gigantic roof — and markets this as a good thing. One-stop shopping is one thing, but sheesh.

Anyway, Walmart has confused me once more, with two recent developments. Last month, the nation’s largest retailer and private employer announced it would stop providing health benefits to its part-time workforce. Then, just days later, the retail giant quietly issued an RFI (acquired by Kaiser Health News) seeking a partner to provide more health clinics in its stores — offering medical services that wouldn’t be covered for its part-time employees.

Anyone else think that’s a bit two-faced?

I guess so, because not long after the RFI was released, Walmart issued a statement that the request was “overwritten and incorrect,” and that the retailer is “not building a national, integrated low-cost primary health care platform,” NPR reports.

Still, the request for information asks potential partners for expertise in managing and monitoring patients with chronic, costly health conditions, according to NPR, with the modest goal of becoming “the largest provider of primary health care services in the nation.”

The retailer also apparently was looking to move quickly, with a vendor being selected by January. According to the NPR report, experts say the RFI could be Walmart’s attempt to get on the leading edge of providing primary care services in preparation for full implementation of health care reform in 2014. Or, the move could be a way to boost flagging store traffic. As retail analyst Colin McGranahan told NPR, “If you get someone in the door, you can also sell them milk and a shotgun.”

Regardless, I still think Walmart sends the wrong message to try to boost access to primary and chronic care right after cutting benefits to a sizeable part of its workforce.

What do you think? Is Walmart wrong to cut benefits but add more health clinics? Or, is all fair in love and cost-cutting? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Butler is editor-in-chief of EBA's sister publication, Employee Benefit News. This post originally ran on their Employee Benefit Views blog.

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