Introducing Wal-Mart-Care

An innovate new health care plan from those sinister corporate scofflaws in Bentonville. The Times reports:

Wal-Mart, long criticized for its health care coverage, unveiled a broad plan yesterday that is intended to cut employee costs, expand coverage and offer workers thousands of cheap prescription drugs.

Starting Jan. 1, Wal-Mart's insurance will look a lot like that offered by many other American companies, but with some twists that even longtime critics described as innovative. Independent experts praised several features of the plan and said it could represent a turning point for the retailer, the nation's largest private employer.

...

Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health and a former benefits consultant, called it "a very good plan," saying that "parts of it, like the $4 generics, are game-changing for the industry."

...

The new program, for which workers can sign up starting this month, offers 50 ways to customize coverage, with varying trade-offs like higher premiums and lower deductibles.

In one plan, for example, an employee would pay premiums up to $79 a month, receive a health care credit of $100 and pay a deductible of $500. In another, the employee would pay premiums of $8 a month, receive a $100 health care credit, but pay a deductible of $2,000. Though many generic drugs will be available for $4, brand-name drugs will cost $30 to $50.

Full story here.

reason contributing editor Julian Sanchez on Sam Walton's parking lots of death here.

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  • ||

    This again proves that, in reality, corporations are in fact rather weak and sensitive to public pressures.

  • ||

    This won't detract serious Walmart haters at all. They'll just complain that the plan is too complicated / not totally free.

  • ||

    This plan is too complicated! And it's not totaly free!

  • ||

    Actually, the REAL WalMart haters will come out when WalMart starts offering their health care insurance to the general public as well as to their own employees; driving Cigna, et al out of business.

    CB

  • Episiarch||

    Anybody who thinks this will slow down the haters is crazy. Look at every other company they went after, from McDonalds to the tobacco companies. No concession is ever enough, no action ever sufficient.

    However, it may be that Wal-Mart isn't doing this to appease anyone, but instead thinks it is a good idea for their business overall. Happy, healthy workers generally are.

  • ||

    If Wal-Mart could beat my insurer, I would move to them ASAP. We had all the usual hullaballoo about Wally World crowding out local businesses in my town, but have seen no real changes except that we recently had a Home Depot and Lowes move in within a 1/2 mile of each other, making that end of town a miserable, crowded, pavement covered death trap in summer and bad weather. You can't tell where one parking lot ends and the next begins, which is my real gripe, especially since they sit mostly empty until the out-of-towner crowd pours in on the weekend to buy new crap for their crappy homes. They pay a lot of taxes though...

  • ||

    I most definitely would not call myself a fan of Wal-Mart, but I agree that this general move in what many see as the right direction will be highly criticized by those same people.

    Heck, I kinda wish I could have $8 per month catastrophic coverage.

  • ||

    DangerMan -
    That's almost an exact description of my hometown. Wal-mart came... most local businesses remained intact (though the K-Mart closed, boo hoo), Home Depot opened, Lowes opened... bad weather, pavement, etc. Out of towners with rental houses, etc...
    Eerily similar, actually. Is this really all that common, or is it just the case for small tourism-based communities?

  • ||

    It's nice when Wal Mart uses its status an industry leader for good. The same size and reach that makes their bad practices so harmful can bring about positive reforms if the Wally Worlk people want to move in that direction.

    Their green store prototype is another such example. As is their urban store model, which has provided by a physical and economic model for the return of the department store to inner city neighborhoods.

    (I don't expect that my comments will stop the Wal Mart-critic-haters. No concession is ever enough, no action even sufficient.

    That's ok. I'm not trying to appease anyone. I just think giving them positive feedback when they do something good is a good idea for everyone.)

  • Russ 2000||

    And if you work at Wal-Mart, you get 10% off.

  • ||

    Russ2000-

    Not Wal-Mart, it's "The Wall-Mart", and it "lures you in with it's everyday low prices...heh,heh..."
    (looks over shoulder, nervously...)

  • ||

    Then shots self in head, falls over, explosively craps pants.

  • ||

    Reinmoose:

    From what you say, we could be talking about the same town (I'm in northern NH). My biggest gripe is more with the town planners than the retailers who take advantage of lax green space regulations, and eminent domain statutes. If big box retailers would leave some of their land unmolested, and not just install 'traffic islands' with wilting trees and dried up mulch, many of their opponents here would take it as a sign of good faith towards the community.

    Yeah, lots of second-home 'tourons' here. Why is it called tourist season if we can't hunt them?

  • Russ 2000||

    tk, funny episode.

    Seriously, Wal-Mart is large enoguh to start its own insurance company. Sears did the same thing decades ago. Kinda wonder what took Wal-Mart so long...

  • ||

    Wal-Mart Watch, a group long critical of the company, said yesterday that "these plans are still unaffordable due to low wages or inaccessible due to waiting periods."



    There are some people, who aren't even affected by this, that will always find/make up something to bitch about.

  • ||

    Too bad I still won't shop at Walmart.

    Not because I have it in for them for anything, I just think their product quality sucks donkey dick.

  • ||

    CoveAxe - Wow. WalMart's product quality sucks? MY WalMart sells HP, Toshiba, Sony, Phillips, iPod, Oster, Sharp, GE, etc.

    Maybe I'm just not picky enough.

    CB
    Disclaimer: Own WMT stock. This is neither a solicitation to sell nor an offer to buy.

  • ||

    This again proves that, in reality, corporations are in fact rather weak and sensitive to public pressures.

    This sentence baffles me. A business generates its revenue by offering people what they want. If part of what they want is to see a company treat its employees a certain way, doing so will help to improve their brand. Good for them.

    And I'm with CoveAxe. It's not the employment/environmental policies of Wal*Mart that keeps everyone away.

  • ||

    This sentence baffles me. A business generates its revenue by offering people what they want. If part of what they want is to see a company treat its employees a certain way, doing so will help to improve their brand. Good for them.

    That was kind of my point.

  • ||

    Leftists always moan about how all-powerful the corporations are, but in reality they are not. If a certain corporation has a bad public image from the way it treats its employees, people may very well stop shopping there. Thus, the corporation treats its workers better to prevent that.

  • fyodor||

    making that end of town a miserable, crowded, pavement

    Yeah, I bet no one goes there anymore now that it's so crowded!

  • ||

    I don't expect that my comments will stop the Wal Mart-critic-haters. No concession is ever enough, no action even sufficient.

    Thoughtful Wal-mart criticism is encouraged. Breathless "omg they only pay $8 an hour!" screeds are not.

    Also, an awareness that many of their misdeeds are aided and abetted by government regulators would be nice, especially when the critic is calling for more govt regulation.

  • wsdave||

    Cesar,
    "Leftists always moan about how all-powerful the corporations are, but in reality they are not."

    For proof, look no further than Wal-Mart's competition, K-Mart. If you can still find one...

  • ||

    crimethink,

    1) Wal Mart's critics frequently single out the favoritism it receives from government.

    2) Government regulation is not some amorphous blob, identical in every particular to the whole.

  • ||

    Cracker's Boy, are you a walmart hater or something? You forgot Garmin GPS units, JVC, Samsung, and Canon camcorders, Acer and HP laptops (awesome deals - look at their webiste), HP, Lexmark, Kodak, and Cannon printers, and Nikon, Sony, Canon, Casio, Olympus, Samsung, Panasonic, Pentax, and HP digital cameras. Then there's the Xbox360, Wii, Nintendo DS, PS3, Gamecube game systems. I've bought Ruger and Savage firearms there and I know they sell Marlin, Remington, and Winchester, plus all yer ammo needs. As "recently" as 1994 the Walmart closest to me would order any firearm you wanted (unless the manager considered it an "assault weapon" - LOL, fucking liberals). Then over in the auto and hardware sections you can buy Goodyear, Michelin, BF Goodrich tires, Black & Decker cordless tools (not exactly Milwaukee, but not bad). Then you have your Braun and Omron medical products, name brand prescription drugs, and fresh local produce. I think they even sell real Kleenex and BandAid brand products, if that sort of thing is important to you.

    And there is cheap junk too, if that's what you are into. Though, they don't stock anything as cheap/crappy as I've bought at gypsy tool shows (as my brother calls them) and flea markets. They don't have Nike, Reebock, or New Balance shoes, nor do they carry $500 suits. (I go elsewhere for my shoes)

    Disclaimer: I wish I had a crapload of Wal-mart stock.

  • ||

    And, their dill pickles are kosher.

  • ||

    FWIW, both mine and my girlfriends computers came from Wal*Mart. Great performers, especially her newest, with it's 19 inch widescreen LCD monitor, powerful enough specs to run Vista, and DVD burner, all for less than we paid for her piece of crap from Best Buy back in 2001.

  • ||

    "DangerMan | September 19, 2007, 5:53pm | #

    Reinmoose:

    From what you say, we could be talking about the same town (I'm in northern NH). My biggest gripe is more with the town planners than the retailers who take advantage of lax green space regulations, and eminent domain statutes. If big box retailers would leave some of their land unmolested, and not just install 'traffic islands' with wilting trees and dried up mulch, many of their opponents here would take it as a sign of good faith towards the community.

    Yeah, lots of second-home 'tourons' here. Why is it called tourist season if we can't hunt them?"

    They did that here..in fact it was part of the deal to let them in to have green spaces...not the dried weedy grass they call "landscaping". Fred Meyers DID put in trees and it breaks up the visual awfulness.

    Two pharmacies at the other end of town did go under when Wal-Mart came in. There are no groceries stores or pharmacies at the south end of town now. Which sucks for me. For a town of just around 10,000 all the major shopping is at least 3 miles away. This was a town that one could easliy walk to the store or the pharmacy before. So yeah, I don't like them.

    As for those pharmacies closing down, they were mom and pop units. The old folks in town went to them, now there's a shuttle that takes them out in groups to get to the remaining pharmacies at the other end of town. The elderly are concentrated in the south, original part of town..a long skinny town on the coast.

    That said, this plan looks interesting.

  • highnumber||

    As I recall, Wal-Mart's dirty little secret is that y'all aren't saving on big ticket items there. They price their [dammit, I forget my retail lingo all the sudden] cheapest tv or computer, the one that they advertise, lower than everybody else, but of course once you're there, you buy a step or two up from that, and, bam, they got ya, cuz now their pricing is just a little higher than their competition's.

    I have no problem with them doing this, but I thought I would share my hearsay evidence. Personally, I don't like shopping at my local Wal-Mart because it's dirty, half the shelves are bare, and nothing is ever priced.

  • highnumber||

    But I must add that the employees at my local Wal-Mart are actually the friendliest and most helpful out of all the big stores.

  • ||

    Target owns Wal-Mart.

  • ||

    And when I saw "own", I mean in the sense they are a much better store. Not in the literal sense.

  • ||

    Wow. WalMart's product quality sucks? MY WalMart sells HP, Toshiba, Sony, Phillips, iPod, Oster, Sharp, GE, etc.

    What I meant by what I said is that Walmart puts incredible pressure on their vendors to lower prices. This, in turn, encourages many to lower their quality or risk being dumped from a large nation-wide chain. There are many companies that will make certain products at a lesser quality just for Walmart just to meet their price points. Now for things like DVDs or other cheap items, this doesn't matter to me, but for more complex items like microwaves, I'd rather just buy elsewhere.

  • ||

    highnumber,

    I did comparison shopping. Both computers we got (mine is a 3-year old Compaq, hers is a brand-new eMachines) were great values for the price. Especially since they've both done everything we've asked them to do. I don't know if you were just making a general point, but I thought I would answer with a pair of anecdotes.

  • Matt Moore||

    joe - You might think the green stores are a step in the right direction, but they suck. Dimly lit, hot and stuffy, and as far as I can tell the windmill in the front is just decoration... I've never seen it spinning yet.

  • ||

    It's a prototype, Matt. You gotta start somewhere.

  • ||

    joe,

    What I meant was that if Wal-mart is violating existing OSHA and DeptOfLabor regulations and getting away with it due to govt negligence and/or complicity, what good will it do to enact more regulations, which in all likelihood will be enforced to the same lackluster degree?

  • Franklin Harris||

    Target owns Wal-Mart.



    The only Target I've ever shopped in had the exact same stuff Wal-Mart has, only more expensive, especially in electronics. The crappy furniture for sale at the back of the store, however, was perhaps slightly less crappy than Wal-Mart's. For me, however, the important thing is that Wal-Mart is open at 2 a.m., which is when those of us who put out morning newspapers for a living have to shop.

    Disclaimer: I own no Wal-Mart stock, but my mother is a Wal-Mart employee and Wal-Mart gave me my single largest college scholarship way back in 1990.

  • highnumber||

    John-David,

    Anecdotal evidence received in answer to my fuzzy hearsay.

    I think we're getting somewhere.

  • keep it clean, eh?||

    my fuzzy hearsay

  • ||

    Raise your hand if you think Wal-Mart would have made these changes if the Wal-Mart haters weren't carrying the torch. Kudos for both sides of the I-Hate-Walmart debate.

  • ||

    Raise your hand if you think Wal-Mart would have made these changes if Wal-Mart thought it would increase their profitability.

    CB

  • Mike Laursen||

    Seriously, Wal-Mart is large enoguh to start its own insurance company.

    Would it be prudent to do so, though, when a restructuring of our health care system could happen in the relative short term? On the one hand, the government may require everyone to carry health insurance, which makes it a great time to get into the health insurance business. On the other hand, you could end up competing with a tax-subsidized government insurance plan.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Raise your hand if you think Wal-Mart is capable of considering multiple factors when making management decisions.

  • ||

    I'm not on the board, but I can't imagine Wal-Mart would dicker with the business model that made it the biggest retailer if it wasn't getting pounded by activists. Public image has value, and Wal-Mart's public image took a beating. The haters made such a stink (and that stink stuck) that Wal-Mart decided it's bottom line was better off conceding a little rather than fighting a lot. Consensus on hand raising?

  • ||

    My hand's up. Both hands, praise Jeebus!

    Except for the multiple state regulatory issues (that have made it difficult for WMT to get into banking like they'd like) I would think WMT getting into health care insurance for the general public would be wise choice.

    CB

  • ||

    I'm not really a WM-Hater but it's entirely possible that the improved health benefits will be offset by even lower wages or reduction in other benefits.

    In other words, WM seemingly has no shortage of employees at the market rate, so why would they raise overall compensation?

  • ||

    DangerMan -
    So close, but mine is in Upstate NY.

    Re: Wal-mart having cheap quality goods
    If you look on the bottom of their toaster ovens a lot of them have stamps to the effect of "manufactured for exclusive distribution at Wal-Mart".. not those exact words of course, but something like it. That does not mean that they're worthless, of course. Just sayin is all..

  • ||

    Dan T.,

    Wal Mart has the highest employee turnover rate in the biz, and an extremely high "shrinkage" rate.

  • ||

    crimethink,

    Ah, I got it now.

    IMHO, Wal Mart is getting away with abusing its employees not because the regulations are too weak, but because the enforcement of those regulations is too lax. We don't need more regulations; we need for inspectors.

  • ||

    "I'm not really a WM-Hater but it's entirely possible that the improved health benefits will be offset by even lower wages or reduction in other benefits."

    Now that would be a gutsy call. The war room in Bentonville, AR: "Let's appease the haters by offering health insurance, but we'll inflame them at the same time by...hmm...ah yes...charging employees to park...."

  • ||

    "health benefits will be offset by even lower wages or reduction in other benefits"

    SOMEBODY has to pay for it. Except in joe's world, you don't get something for nothing. ALL things have a cost.

    'Mornin' joe.

    CB

    Oh... and another thing. Isn't saying "I am not a WalMart hater, but..." just like saying "I am not a racist, but..." meaning: you really ARE a (fill in the blank)? Just an observation.

  • ||

    Cracker's Boy,

    Did you not notice all the statements about Wal Mart getting better press? Or mine, about turnover and employee theft rates?

    Quid pro quo. Better compensation, better labor and better press.

  • ||

    While I think we are agreeing here (that WMT providing better employee health insurance) is a "good thing", I am not so sure that WalMart IS getting "better press".

    Everybody hates WalMart... including some of the people who shop there. WMT can't win. But who cares? The stock's at $44.36/share.

    CB

  • ||

    "WMT can't win....The stock's at $44.36/share."

    Is it negate your own premise day today?

  • ||

    "Is it negate your own premise day today?"

    I don't care. I bought at $26 and my wife bought at $22. (I wish I had 3 more like her.)

    CB

  • ||

    Now that would be a gutsy call. The war room in Bentonville, AR: "Let's appease the haters by offering health insurance, but we'll inflame them at the same time by...hmm...ah yes...charging employees to park...."

    More like "next year's raises will take the form of improved health coverage instead of higher wages".

    My point is that a dollar of compensation is a dollar of compensation.

  • ||

    Oh... and another thing. Isn't saying "I am not a WalMart hater, but..." just like saying "I am not a racist, but..." meaning: you really ARE a (fill in the blank)? Just an observation.

    Yes, I suppose I protested too much...

  • ||

    I wasn't singling you out Dan T. I hear that "I'm not a WalMart hater, but..." a bunch.

    Hey. I'm not a WalMart lover, either. They piss me off every time I walk in the store; the lines at the checkout, or the holes in the shelves where I am looking for something that they should have, but... I keep shopping there, because the overall "value provided" exceeds the negative experience.

    And every time I go home and bitch at the wife about wanting to sell my stock (Don't own stock in stores you wouldn't shop in) because I hate the lines, she reminds me that... if there ARE lines, that's a good thing.

    CB

  • ||

    Target sucks. They don't even sell guns. There's something wrong with that...

  • ||

    CB -
    You know what there's something wrong with? Somehow the express lanes are 20 ITEMS OR LESS!

  • ||

    "Target sucks. They don't even sell guns. There's something wrong with that..."

    Well Wal-Mart doesn't sell walls, and K-Mart certainly doesn't sell Ketamine.

  • ||

    I am a Wal-mart lover, and only because of the political type that tends to hate Wal-Mart.

  • ||

    Wal-Mart has so much potential to do some good in the world. I'm very concerned about the company's workings with China and the safety threat it presents.

    I read a report today that is quite scary:

    "Wal-Mart's unsafe products are the direct result of the corporation's insistence that manufacturers supply low cost goods above all else.

    Wal-Mart has long had the power and responsibility to demand safer products from its suppliers, but instead, it has demanded lower prices and tried to cover up the consequences."

  • ||

    I absolutely despise eating cat vomit.

    Hear that, joshua? So do all my lefty friends.

    Hate it. Fucking bourgeois-capitalist cat vomit.

  • Mike Laursen||

    They piss me off every time I walk in the store; the lines at the checkout, or the holes in the shelves where I am looking for something that they should have, but... I keep shopping there, because the overall "value provided" exceeds the negative experience.

    If only Fry's Electronics would go nationwide. Now, there's a retailer that could bring people of all political camps together in hatred.

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