POLICY: OMG–WalMart are the good guys!

Forget anything you ever knew about health benefits. WalMart are the good guys!

In fiscal year 2006, Wal-Mart spent about $4.8 billion on employee benefits – a cost made higher because many hires arrive with unattended health needs, according to Mr. Emerick. The expense was far too much, given Wal-Mart’s $11.2 billion in profit that same year, he said. Many employers, especially in retail, have increased part-time employment and made it harder for their workers to qualify for benefits as a way to manage costs, Mr. Emerick said. Employees eligible for coverage stood at 59 percent in 2006, down from 62 percent in 2004, according to a Kaiser Employer Health Benefits Survey. In comparison, Wal-Mart’s eligibility is 76 percent, up from 72 percent in 2004, Mr. Emerick said. "In many respects, we believe that eligibility is much more important than the scope of coverage," he said.

And given that all rational people want the employer-based system to be replaced with something better, let’s not mention how WalMart’s rampage through the grocery and retail business has caused a significant decrease in the number of employees of other company’s receiving health benefits, nor anything about their suggestions to their staff about how to go on Medicaid. And given that they favor high-deductible plans, let’s also not ask how many WalMart employees can take a $1,000 deductible in their stride. After all this is about empowering consumers, right?

At some point WalMart the company will figure out that a national tax-based coverage system is way better for its employees and somewhat better for it. Then of course Lee Scott will have to explain to the richest family in the world why they may have to pay just a little more tax. Something they’re not too keen on usually. Do you think he’ll keep his job after that? He’s already in a little bit of trouble as it is.

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