Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"Dr. Sam"

This is dedicated to Pullman Chamber Guy and his comments earlier about Wal-Mart and free market health care.

From Investor's Business Daily, April 25, 2007 :
Health Care: Medical costs got you down? Prescriptions too expensive? So fed up with our "system" that universal care is starting to look good by comparison? Before going that far, check what Wal-Mart's (NYSE:WMT) up to.

The retail colossus announced this week that it will open as many as 400 in-store medical clinics in the next two to three years. By 2014, it said, clinics could be in as many as half its 4,000 stores.

The announcement followed deep price cuts on prescription drugs introduced by the company last fall at 65 Tampa, Fla.-area outlets. That program, which was not beaten back like Wal-Mart's attempt to enter banking, has since spread across the country.

Wal-Mart's advance into health care is a testament to private-sector industriousness. While others whine about America's health care "crisis," and back monstrous government programs to solve it, Wal-Mart is actually making care more affordable.

Yes, the same Wal-Mart that politicians and activists demonize because its pay and benefits supposedly are insufficient.

The clinics will be operated by local hospitals or other independent professionals, and will particularly help the poor. Company executives say prices for medical care in the clinics will mirror the low prices in Wal-Mart stores.

Already, Wal-Mart has brought low-cost health care by selling 30-day supplies of more than 300 generic prescription drugs at some stores for $4. Almost a third of those $4 prescriptions are bought by the uninsured. Customers have saved $290 million through the program just since September

Cynics will say clinics and low-price drugs are a ploy to lure more shoppers into Wal-Mart. So? Is that wrong? The essential truth missing from their tirades about Wal-Mart's rapacity is that it's a company, not a charity. It must make a profit to stay in business, provide jobs and keep prices low.

If Wal-Mart thinks this latest plan will win the plaudits of its foes, it's mistaken. Just Tuesday, the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which runs a nonstop anti-Wal Mart campaign via the Web, derided the company's "disturbing" record on health care -- a laughable assertion, given Wal-Mart's record.

Opening clinics also will likely create new enemies: physicians and their staffs who fear that their practices will be harmed by the presence of price-cutting Wal-Mart clinics in their communities.

But the issue shouldn't be about saving local medical practices any more than saving local retailers who always complain when Wal-Mart moves in. It should be about quality health care -- and prescriptions, groceries, clothing and essential household items -- at prices all Americans can afford. Wal-Mart does that.
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