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Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT - Analyst Report) has announced its decision to join the Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative (APII) program through which the company expects to provide health care at much reduced costs.

Unlike fee-for-service models, the APII program will reward doctors and other health care providers for providing quality service at a reasonable cost. By encouraging patients to follow preventive measures at the ground level and providing follow-up care after hospitalization, the likelihood of hospital readmissions can be dramatically reduced, which results in better health care and lower costs.

Keeping in mind the rising health care costs in the U.S., Walmart has stepped forward and committed $670,000 to create a tracking system that would define the health care payment structure and help underwrite an annual statewide tracking report that will measure the effectiveness of the project. Besides paying for the tracking system, the $670,000 commitment will help distribute information about the program. Further, Walmart will serve on the APII Employer Advisory Council for Arkansas.

Through this initiative, Walmart expects to build a new and sustainable system over the long term to provide the best possible health care for the people of Arkansans in the most cost effective way.

In another development, Walmart with its division Sam’s Club has launched a new contact lens program for 2013, where customers can order contact lenses online or over the phone and get free home delivery. In addition, Walmart and Sam's Club have lowered prices on many top contact lenses to attract customers. The company is also planning to launch its own private Equate brand of contact lenses in February, thus providing more options to its customers at low prices.

Walmart currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Other stocks in variety store sector, which are attractive for investment are The Kroger Co. (KR - Analyst Report) and Whole Foods Market Inc. (WFM - Analyst Report) both of which carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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