BENTONVILLE, Ark., Oct. 11, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — As health care costs continue to rise, Walmart is introducing a first-of-its-kind Centers of Excellence program that will offer its associates quality health care with no out-of-pocket cost for heart, spine, and transplant surgeries at six of the leading hospital and health systems in the U.S. The six designated health care organizations include the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio; Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa.; Mayo Clinic sites in Rochester, Minn., Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz., and Jacksonville, Fla.; Mercy Hospital Springfield in Springfield, Mo; Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas; and Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Wash. These organizations will give Walmart associates the opportunity to receive care at hospitals and medical centers geographically located across the country that specialize in heart, spine and transplant care. “We devoted extensive time developing Centers of Excellence in order to improve the quality of care our associates’ receive,” said Sally Welborn, senior vice president of global benefits at Walmart. “We have identified six renowned health care systems that meet the highest quality standards for heart, spine and transplant surgery. Through these hospital systems, our associates will have no out-of-pocket expenses and a greater peace of mind knowing they are receiving exceptional care from a facility that specializes in the procedure they require. This is the first time a retailer has offered a comprehensive, nationwide program for heart, spine and transplant surgery.” The new Centers of Excellence program is being expanded from covering transplants, which began with the Mayo Clinic in 1996, to include treatment for certain heart and spine surgeries. Walmart’s associates and their dependents who are enrolled in the company’s medical plans will receive consultations and care covered at 100 percent without deductible or coinsurance, plus travel, lodging and food for the patient and a caregiver. Patients must be healthy enough to travel for the surgeries. Four of the designated health care systems — Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger Medical Center, Scott & White Memorial Hospital and Virginia Mason Medical Center, will offer specific procedures for cardiac surgery that include open heart surgery for coronary artery bypass grafting, heart valve replacement/repair, closures of heart defects, thoracic and aortic aneurysm repair and other complex cardiac surgeries. Three of the health care systems — Mercy Hospital Springfield, Scott & White Memorial Hospital and Virginia Mason Medical Center will perform spine procedures that will include cervical and lumbar spinal fusion, total disk arthroplasty, spine surgery revisions and other complex spine surgeries. Transplants will continue to be provided by the Mayo Clinic. In providing this service at no cost to its enrolled associates, Walmart has worked with these Centers of Excellence health systems to provide exclusive and unique bundled pricing arrangements for these types of procedures. Through Centers of Excellence, Walmart is working with all the health care organizations to collectively share best practices that will allow collaboration around best measures of service and new industry findings in comparison to industry practices. For more on this story click here.