Costco builds in telehealth with $29 online visit

Henry & Co

US retailer Costco has made a play for a bigger slice of the healthcare market by offering its members online health visits, starting from just $29, as well as other services like lab tests and therapy sessions.

The move follows the lead of other retailers like Amazon and Walmart and is being carried out via a partnership with Sesame, a direct-to-consumer healthcare marketplace that launched mainly to provide low-cost services to people in the US without health insurance.

Along with the $29 initial consultation, Costco members can get a virtual therapy visit for $79, a health check-up for $72, and a 10% discount on other services, including specialty medicine visits, according to Sesame. The company also helps people arrange in-person visits.

Sesame says it can offer competitive pricing because its platform has created an environment where providers compete to serve patients – regardless of their insurance status – driving down prices. It doesn’t accept insurance, so is aimed at people who opt to pay cash for care, either because they are uninsured or enrolled in high deductible plans.

“Quality, great value, and low price are what the Costco brand is known for,” remarked David Goldhill, Sesame’s co-founder and CEO. “When it comes to healthcare, 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.”

The move by Costco follows a trend among other large US retailers to start offering virtual visits, including Amazon, which launched its Amazon Clinic service last year to act as a go-between for patients and healthcare providers.

That decision came shortly after it shut down its Amazon Care telehealth service, which was aimed at employers, and was facilitated by the retail giant’s acquisition of US primary care provider One Medical last year. Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens have made similar moves in the virtual care category.

Since launching a few years ago, Sesame has raised more than $50 million in funding via Series A and B rounds in 2021 and 2022, with backing from investors including GV, Virgin Group, General Catalyst, and Giant Ventures.

It entered the online pharmacy market in 2021 with the launch of its SesameRx programme, offering more than 200 generic medicines with prices starting at just $5 per prescription for customers who have scheduled an appointment with a healthcare provider via the Sesame platform. The pharmacy service is provided by Truepill.

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