In the same week in late October that Walmart announced it would stop offering health insurance benefits to new part-time employees, the retailer sent out a request for information seeking partners to help it “dramatically … lower the cost of healthcare … by becoming the largest provider of primary healthcare services in the nation.”

On Tuesday, Walmart spokeswoman Tara Raddohl confirmed the proposal but declined to elaborate on specifics, calling it simply an effort to determine “strategic next steps.”

The 14-page request asks firms to spell out their expertise in a wide variety of areas, including managing and monitoring patients with chronic, costly health conditions. Partners are to be selected in January.

Analysts said Walmart is likely positioning itself to boost store traffic – possibly by expanding the number of, and services offered by, its in-store medical clinics. The move would also capitalize on growing demand for primary care in 2014, when the federal health law fully kicks in and millions more Americans are expected to have government or private health insurance.