Wal-Mart and National Health Care

My sports medicine doc was more than an hour late for my early afternoon appointment yesterday. Golly. And this is the best health-care system in the world? Well, maybe. But I have long held that doctors could use a course in time management and a lesson in listening. Why is it that all meaningful communication ceases after the obligatory: “Did you bring your insurance card”?

Or, said another way, “Ah, dude: No ticky, no washy.”

Fortunately (for me) I have a ticky. And I expect most will have one in the not-too-distant future because of Wal-Mart. The giant retailer said yesterday that it now endorses proposals that would require employers to pay for some or all of an employee’s health-care costs. (Company didn’t provide specific details about how much it would support in the way of mandated costs.) That comes after years of opposing an “employer mandate.” And it represents a big change from the early ’90s when the business community took the lead in driving a spike into the heart of HillaryCare.

Ironically, most people probably missed this story yesterday as the media frenzy over the death of Michael Jackson switched to his use of prescription drugs and so on. Too bad. The Wal-Mart/health-care story is important. I digress.

Here’s from The Washington Post about Wal-Mart:

After years of strenuous opposition, Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, announced yesterday that it supports a controversial proposal requiring businesses to contribute to the cost of employee health insurance.

The retailing giant’s endorsement comes as the push and pull on health reform intensifies, and it could have broad economic and political consequences. Many business groups, displeased with the shape of the legislation that has emerged so far, have begun to mobilize against President Obama’s top domestic priority.

You could argue that Wal-Mart is taking this position on employer mandates because it is the right thing to do. And to be fair (since I have no clue about the discussions or decisions on the part of Wal-Mart management) that might be the case. But I believe that two things are driving this position — and both will ultimately put the business community on the road to supporting national health care. Oops. I mean a public provider option. My bad.

First, Obama and group have the votes to pass something by this fall — and the political stakes are too high for them to fold on this issue this time around. So Wal-Mart and others might as well grab a seat at the table.

Second, Wal-Mart knows that a government enforced mandate will level the playing field. All employers will be subject to the same amount of baseline costs. So unless the costs are way out of line (hear that AMA and insurance providers) no one company gains a competitive advantage by not playing along. From The Washington Post:

Opinion in the corporate world over an employer mandate is split.

“This would be bad for businesses, employees and consumers everywhere, even Wal-Mart shoppers,” said E. Neil Trautwein, a vice president at the National Retail Federation. The federation is pressing for an individual mandate and significant insurance market reforms.

But some large employers support an employer mandate as a way to “level the playing field,” said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, which represents primarily Fortune 500 companies. “A lot of big companies in the retail business already provide it, and they feel that creates a competitive disadvantage for them,” she said.

This will be an interesting fight throughout the summer — in Congress, in the media and on K Street in DC where the lobbyists live for this kind of national no-holds-barred wrestling match. And groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — the original Dr. No on everything — will fight an expanded national health-care program for as along as as hard as possible.

And as the debate continues, has anyone on CNN considered this? Wonder if Michael Jackson had to use mail order to receive prescription drugs?

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One response to “Wal-Mart and National Health Care

  1. Pingback: Walmart spile | Fall7getup8

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