Wal-Mart CEO Asks NGA To Address Health Care
In a speech to the National Governors Association, Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott on Sunday criticized bills in at least 20 states that would require the company and some other large employers to provide more health care coverage for employees and asked governors instead to work with the company to make health care more affordable, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Scott said that the bills might "score short-term political points, but they won't solve America's health care challenges." He added that while Wal-Mart's health plans are "not perfect," the company would make changes to improve them. According to the Journal, Scott said the company will allow children of part-time workers to enroll in the company's health plan, reduce the two-year waiting period for part-time workers to qualify for benefits and open 50 additional in-store health clinics (Barbaro, Wall Street Journal, 2/27).
Scott said the "Value Plan," available to some employees for premiums of $11 per month, will be available to half of the company's employees within the next year, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports (White, AP/Long Island Newsday, 2/26).
Scott said, "The soaring cost of health care in America cannot be sustained over the long term by any business that offers health benefits to its employees. And every day we do not work together to solve this challenge is a day that our country becomes less competitive in the global industry." He noted that state Medicaid programs have become "far more generous" in covering children, adding, "Are you right to want to make sure that the kids of working families have health coverage -- even if it's Medicaid? You bet you are. So let's commit ... to working together to solve these problems" (Hudson, Wall Street Journal, 2/27).
Scott said, "At the end of the day, this is not about me. It is not about Wal-Mart. And it is not about you. It is about all of us and what we can do to keep this country great." Scott also pledged to travel to any governor's office to discuss health care. Scott added, "The only thing I ask is that we talk about real solutions to the health care challenges facing working families" (Barbaro, Wall Street Journal, 2/27).
In addition, Scott said that the company's biggest challenge will be improving Wal-Mart's wellness program to encourage employees to maintain a healthy diet and exercise (AP/Long Island Newsday, 2/26). He also said that the company's new effort to introduce health savings accounts has been slow to start because setting up the accounts was "too complicated" (Barbaro, Wall Street Journal, 2/27).
Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) said he was "intrigued by (Scott's) discussion about the weaknesses of the employer-based health care model in this country and sort of wondered what his thought about the alternative would be."
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) said lawmakers need to work together to ensure that someone "comes up with the right way of skinning the cat and then serves as a best-practice model for a lot of other companies and states" (White, AP/Long Island Newsday, 2/26).
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (R) said employer-provided health care is not an issue for state governments to decide, adding, "If there is going to be an effort to address health insurance, it has to be a national solution."
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) said, "I don't see this as a Wal-Mart problem nor as a business problem. I see it as an insurance issue that needs to be dealt with, in our case, on a statewide basis" (Hudson, Wall Street Journal, 2/27).
Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) said 20% of Wal-Mart workers in her state are enrolled in Medicaid and said this is "a problem that (Scott) has to solve" (Barbaro, Wall Street Journal, 2/27). She said that "he, too, shares in the problem" (Hudson, Wall Street Journal, 2/27).