You thought Home Depot was only good at importing Chinese ceiling fans? Actually, the world’s largest home improvement chain appears to be willing to sell almost anything that can turn a profit, from gasoline to health care. The company is now offering health insurance to small businesses as part of its “Home Depot Business ToolBox.” The purpose of the ToolBox is to offer “significant savings on many business services you use everyday.” Their new health insurance product is called “BenefitProtect”, and uses what the retailer calls “the top health insurance and benefit providers” in the U.S. “BenefitProtect has a benefits platform that will meet the needs of employers looking to obtain health insurance and benefits coverage and/or address rapidly increasing healthcare costs.” This new health plan is called a “one-stop-shop for all the health benefit needs of you and your employees.” The plan offers individual and group coverage for: Major medical, limited medical, critical illness, accident insurance, and a medical discount savings card for drugs, vision “and more.” The plan is available in all 50 states, and provides access to 345,000 health care providers. BenefitProtect has 4 national carriers, all of whom have inked deals with other retail stores like CVS, Wal-Mart, and others: Assurant Health-Time Insurance Co, Aetna, Humana, and ASG at Work. Home Depot collects “referral fees” from these carriers every time someone signs up for a plan. Home Depot told the Long Island Business News that their new health products are not designed to be a cash cow, but are a “loyalty-building program” that strengthens its relationship “with a significant customer base.” In some states, like New York, Home Depot can’t create “discounts” on health insurance for small businesses, because the state requires policies be offered with set rates, rather than negotiated individually. BenefitProtect is a health insurance broker based in Phoenix, Arizona. A Home Depot spokesman said response to their health insurance plan has been very positive. “”I can say that health care is driving a significant inquiry,” the spokesman told the Long Island Business News. “It is our most inquired product.” Home Depot is also offering, as part of the ToolBox, wireless phone service, uniforms, business insurance, payroll processing, computer technology, office supplies, credit card processing, direct mail services, and other business assistance.
Health care is just the latest “product” filtering into the retail marketplace. Wal-Mart has announced that a company called Intrepid Holdings, Inc. will open health clinics in Wal-Mart Supercenters as the result of a new lease agreement. Houston-based Intrepid will open its Health Access medical clinics in Wal-Mart Supercenters in Texas. More clinics are planned in other markets following the initial rollout in Texas. The clinics will offer health care for non-threatening conditions. Eventually Wal-Mart will offer emergency room care, maybe even incorporate hospital chains into its empire. The new Home Depot health plan will reportedly not use nuts and bolts or other hardware as part of its medical care, nor drills from China for surgical purposes. The Home Depot’s health plan motto could be, “Take two screws, and call us in the morning.”