Friday, February 24, 2006

Wal-Mart Health Care Spending Drops

According to "America Pays, Wal-Mart Saves,”’s new study of Wal-Mart’s health care policies, what was thought to be a bad situation is even worse. Here are some key findings:

Wal-Mart health care spending actually dropped in the latest public filing with the Internal Revenue Service (from 2003-2004);

In 2005, nearly 300,000 Wal-Mart workers and their family members depended on taxpayer-funded public health care at a total cost to American taxpayers of $1.37 billion.

In 2005, Wal-Mart failed to provide company health care to 57% of its workforce, leaving over 775,000 Wal-Mart workers and their families without company health care;

The Wal-Mart health care crisis will cost taxpayers an estimated $9.1 billion over the next five years;
As we’ve commented in our Conservative Case Against Wal-Mart, a major concern is that the company is exploiting the American taxpayer by having them subsidize its “everyday low prices”. With 13% of its workforce on public assistance and a 3.5% drop in health care spending (compared to 7.6% jump for the average company during the same time), Wal-Mart is assuming that it will continue to receive corporate welfare handouts. Check out the site for all the details.

In response to these revelations as well as the fair share healthcare bills in places like New York City and Maryland, Wal-Mart announced that it plans to improve the health care offered to employees. According to the NY Times:

Wal-Mart said that for the first time it would permit part-time employees to enroll their children in the health insurance plan, and it pledged to reduce significantly the waiting period before a new part-time employee is eligible for benefits, though it declined to specify the reduction.
It’s good to see Wal-Mart responding to valid critiques and attempting to improve its health care plans. However, like Wal-Mart Watch, we are pleased by cautiously so:

“Our curiosity is certainly piqued by his interest in ‘significantly reducing the waiting period for part-time associates.’ After all, that waiting period is a stunning two years. Moreover, Wal-Mart has admitted in internal documents that it is actively pushing full-time workers onto part-time status, reducing both their earning power and benefits.

“And Scott’s other announcements to tinker with their health benefits must be evaluated in the harsh light of the multitude of hidden charges buried in their plans. Wal-Mart’s new so-called ‘Value Plan’ remains a raw deal for its employees who can’t afford the high deductibles and strict eligibility requirements.

“Wal-Mart can and should act as a catalyst for change in the American health care system.”