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POLICY/POLITICS: Wal-Mart & the SEIU

This is bizarre, but both Wal-Mart and the SEIU want the employer-based health insurance system to end. So apparently today they’re going to agree about that.  Of course as Wal-Mart has a completely fungible workforce, any attempt to make it pay for  its employees health care either via a pay or play system, or by increasing taxes, will lower its profits. And so it has vigorously opposed any pay or play attempts, and has forced the rest of its unionized. health-benefits providing grocery competitors more or less into its line of thinking.(See this old chestnut about Wal-Mart vs Costco on that score).

So that the SEIU and other unions have backed them into a corner on this means one of three things . Either Wal-Mart is worried about its public image of being a dreadful employer. Or that it’s genuinely worried that its employees not having health insurance lowers their productivity. Or that it believes it can back a universal insurance plan that means someone else (presumably the taxpayer) will pay for its workers to get insurance and thereby get the issue off its back.

You can guess which one I think it is.

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  1. Why does America have such a big health care problem? Since Walmart pays such low wages that often qualify people for welfare or Medicaid, they should be made to pay for these programs that the taxpayers subsidize. Walmart informs and instructs its employees how to sign up for Medicaid. Why should we the taxpayers be stuck with the bill for their low wages? In direct comparison to Walmart, Costco does an excellent job of paying its employees good wages and providing them with health care and many other benefits.
    The employer based health insurance system is in trouble for the following reasons. The rise in medical costs is heavily due to overuse of prescription drugs driven by direct to consumer marketing. The US is one of the few countries in the world that does not have negotiated pricing for prescription medicines, and we often pay 400-500 percent more for them than other industrialized countries. There should be a ban on direct to consumer drug advertising and negotiated prescription pricing.
    Then you have the insurance companies with many of them raising their rates twenty to twenty-five percent a year and giving their CEOs and boards lavish pay packages with millions of dollars. At the same time, many of these same insurance companies refuse to underwrite individuals with minor health problems, so they cannot get insurance. If people have individual health insurance get, the big insurers cancel their individual health insurance plan when they get sick just like Blue Cross California. What a great way to deliver health care.
    Here are solutions to reform the American health care mess. The employer-based system will become much less expensive by implementing negotiated prescription pricing and banning direct consumer drug advertising. This will help to lower group health insurance rates. There should be a limit on the amount of profits that health insurance companies make and a maximum amount they can spend on non health care related expenses. Then assess Walmart and other big employer’s fees when they force the taxpayer to subsidize their employees for Medicaid. For those who are not getting health insurance through work, Medicare should be available to them. This must be done at the same affordable rates for everyone irrespective of income and social status. This will actually help Medicare’s solvency by attracting younger and healthier people and help lead to lower costs for the Medicare program.

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