Costco is joining retail competitors Walgreens, Walmart and CVS Health by expanding its healthcare footprint.
The big-box retailer teamed up with startup Sesame to offer special discount pricing to Costco members on a broad range of outpatient medical care services, including telehealth visits. Costco members nationally can book appointments directly through their Costco memberships for Sesame's "best pricing" including virtual primary care visits for $29 and online mental health therapy visits for $79.
New York City-based Sesame launched in 2019 to connect patients to in-person and virtual care using a direct-pay model. The company built a two-sided marketplace for patients and healthcare providers. As a cash-pay business, Sesame aims to address the healthcare needs of uninsured consumers and those with high-deductible plans.
The Sesame marketplace is comprised of primary care doctors and nurse practitioners as well as more than 40 health specialties, labs and imaging centers and is inclusive of both virtual and in-person care, according to the company. The company says its marketplace gives consumers direct access to more than 10,000 healthcare providers that charge a cash price and do not accept nor require insurance, and more than 100,000 patients have been treated by doctors found through Sesame.
"Quality, great value, and low price are what the Costco brand is known for," said David Goldhill, Sesame’s co-founder and CEO, in a press release. "When it comes to health care, Sesame also delivers high quality and great value—and a low price that will be appreciated by Costco Members when it comes to their own care."
As part of the collaboration between Costco and Sesame, Costco members can also access health checkups for $72, which includes a standard lab panel plus a virtual follow-up consultation with a provider. Members also get 10% off of all other Sesame services, including in-person appointments.
Costco's move to push deeper into healthcare comes as other retailers also expand their healthcare offerings. Walmart has been building out its network of primary care clinics. The company has more than 30 locations in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Texas. The retail giant plans to open four new health centers in the Oklahoma City area. This is in addition to already announced plans to move into Missouri and Arizona in 2024.
Amazon bought primary care company One Medical for $3.9 billion while CVS Health acquired Oak Street Health for $10.6 billion. Walgreens-backed VillageMD also bought medical practice Summit Health, the parent company of urgent care clinic chain CityMD, for nearly $9 billion.
But Costco executives point out that the big-box retailer has a different strategy. Other retailers are expanding their healthcare offerings by offering preventive and urgent care services in store as well as opening pharmacies.
"By partnering with Sesame, Costco is providing its members access to Sesame marketplace of low-price healthcare services, virtually or in-person with a provider, all at an exclusive discount. With the option to bring healthcare into their home, Costco members will have access to care in a setting that’s right for them and have the option to develop long-term doctor-patient relationships with a Sesame provider," Costco executives said.
A private-equity-backed company, Sesame has raised $75 million from investors including Google Ventures. The company has reported that patients using its cash-pay healthcare marketplace saved between 20% and 67% on the cost of healthcare services.
In February 2022, jumped into the employer market by rolling out a service that provides employee healthcare offerings for small and medium-sized businesses.