Tuesday, April 18, 2006
The Low Down on Wal-Mart and Health Care
THIS is one of the reasons I wanted to attend the media conference. Rather than relying on the Seattle Times or Google to get facts on the Wal-Mart health care "crisis," I wanted to get them straight from the source and draw my own conclusions.
70% of Wal-Mart candidates apply for part-time jobs, even though 75% of Wal-Mart's work force is full-time. Some have health care coverage from other sources (parents, spouse, etc.). 30% of Wal-Mart's associates join with no coverage at all. 7% are on Medicaid when they start working at Wal-Mart. Only 3% remain on Medicaid after two years of employment. Last year, Wal-Mart helped 160,000 people get health care coverage. All those factors have to be considered before issuing a blanket statement that Wal-Mart has the most employees on Medicaid and Basic Health.
Wal-Mart is continuing to improve health care benefits. Susan Chambers, Executive Vice President, People Divcision, announced that they are cutting the time requirement for part-time employees to be covered from 24 months to 12 months. That's astounding. Most employers (including WSU) don't cover part-time employees at all. They are also offering expanded coverage for associates' children.
Wal-Mart is also making its coverage more affordable with a Value Plan (they have 18 different health plans). For a parent and two children, the annual premium is $443. Deductibles start at $1000.
The changes must be working. 70,000 associates were added in the last enrollment period. 3/4 of those had been previously uninsured. 1/3 chose the Value Plan. A million people are now covered by Wal-Mart health plans.
I can tell you from personal experience in private industry that the Wal-Mart benefit plans are very competitive and generous. Wal-Mart has been made into a whipping boy for the greater health care crisis in this country that will require the government, employers, and employees working together to achieve a solution.
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