LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Jan. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe announced today that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) is joining a groundbreaking effort to create a more patient-centered and cost-efficient health payment system through the Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative (APII). Walmart has committed $670,000 to underwrite the ongoing work of the new program, the first of its kind in the United States. "We have worked for the past two years to bring the public and private sectors together in order to provide better health care in more cost-efficient ways," Governor Mike Beebe said. "It's critical that large, self-insured companies like Walmart be involved in this complex work that has the potential to serve as a model for the rest of the nation. With more than one million people on its health plan, Walmart's willingness to step forward and lead in this effort shows the company's continued pursuit of innovation and the initiative's potential for the future of health care." Now in the first phase of implementation, the Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative is designed to reward physicians, hospitals and other providers who give patients high-quality care at an appropriate cost. The long-term goal is to build a new and sustainable system that provides the best possible health care for Arkansans through team-based approaches and cost containment. For example, when primary care providers actively encourage patients to use preventive services, patients can manage chronic diseases and reduce future serious illnesses and costly treatments. And, when people receive appropriate follow-up care after hospitalizations, the likelihood of hospital readmissions can be dramatically reduced, which results in better health and lower costs. As part of the agreement, Walmart will serve on the newly created APII Employer Advisory Council, fund the development and distribution of information to the public that explains how payments are being restructured, and help underwrite an annual statewide tracking report that will evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the project.