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Walmart logo Walmart says its ACOs have seen lower hospital admissions and emergency-room visits, while trips to primary-care doctors have risen. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Amazon.com Inc. says it wants to remake health care for its workers. But its biggest rival is beating it to the punch.

Walmart Inc., the largest private employer in the U.S., has been buying health care for its workers directly from providers in six different regions — bypassing insurers who usually negotiate with doctors and hospitals. The retailer is trying to find out if its formidable purchasing power can squeeze out middlemen and drive down costs in the same way that its tough bargaining has brought down prices for shoppers.

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