Skip to comments.Wal-Mart to Announce Health Care Plan
Posted on 09/20/2006 9:40:04 PM PDT by jdm
Under increasing attacks for what its critics call inadequate health care coverage for its 1.3 million workers, [Wal-Mart] is set to announce a major health care initiative in Tampa., Fla., Thursday morning.
Wal-Mart executives declined to comment on what the plan entails, but it will be hosting the conference with political officials, according to a company statement.
The initiative will mark the fourth time since last October that the world's largest retailer has moved to improve health benefits. The announcement also comes at a time when Wal-Mart's health care has become a hot political issue ahead of the November congressional elections. The Wal-Mart issue is expected to be divisive for the 2008 presidential elections.
Union-backed Wake Up Wal-Mart, one of its most vociferous critics, this summer had a month-long national bus tour that enlisted support from several prominent Democrats including Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del. who have called upon Wal-Mart to offer better health care coverage and higher pay to employees.
Critics contend that the company's benefits are too stingy, forcing taxpayers to absorb more of the cost as the workers lacking coverage turn to state-funded health care programs.
Wal-Mart has fought back with its own campaign against organized critics, launching political style television ads last month that tout issues rather than the toys and other products it sells at nearly 4,000 stores. The ads argue that Wal-Mart benefits its workers and communities by providing affordable health insurance, generating tens of thousands of jobs and saving families money with its low prices.
This past summer, Wal-Mart did win a successful fight against a first-of-its-kind state law that would have required the retailer to spend more on employee health care in Maryland. A federal judge ruled in July that it was invalid under federal law. But other states are considering similar legislation aimed at the company.
With Wal-Mart's new health care initiative to be revealed Thursday, Nu Wexler, spokesman for Wal-Mart Watch, another vocal union-backed group, said that the retailer has "a tremendous opportunity to make dramatic changes to their inadequate employee health care plan."
In the last year or so, Wal-Mart, faced with legal problems from child labor law violations to charges of gender discrimination, has aimed to recast itself as a good corporate citizen and friendly neighbor. Wal-Mart has made one of the biggest strides on the environmental front, with goals to reduce waste to zero and offering more environmentally friendly products.
But health care is the issue that eludes the company as it struggles to appease critics while not risking its position as a low-cost leader, according to Wexler. According to a recent job posting, Wal-Mart acknowledged that health care is "the single biggest reputation issue Wal-Mart faces."
Wal-Mart's recent moves to improve its health care plan include relaxing eligibility requirements for its part-time employees who want health insurance, and extending coverage for the first time to the children of those employees. Part-time employees, who had to work for Wal-Mart for two years to qualify, now have to work at the company for one year. This year, Wal-Mart also expanded a trial run of in-store clinics, aimed at providing lower cost non-emergency health care to the public.
Last October, Wal-Mart offered a new lower-premium insurance aimed at getting more of its work force on company plans.
But critics argue that Wal-Mart's coverage calls for a deductible that requires workers to pick up the first $1,000 in medical expenses, and the deductible rises to a maximum of $3,000 for families.
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(2) Wal-Mart isn't caving in to anyone
(3) Any health-care plan proposed by Wal-Mart will also impact other employers in Wal-Mart's tier (just like the Wal-Mart CEO's brilliant maneuver of the minimum-wage, which would have forced other employers to raise their wages as well), so the other employers will drop it and it becomes a non-issue.
(4) Strategery baby, strategery!
Darnnit... Wal mart has stuck me with a $350.00 deductible and and $20.00 co-pay to boot! I PROTEST!!! ;)
The MSM and their liberal buddies are very saddened by this announcement.