Wal-Mart Joins the Ranks of the Health-Care Corporatists

In May, Reason science correspondent Ron Bailey warned of the coming "health-care corporatism," writing that "the country's major health care producers, including insurance companies, hospital and physician organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and health care labor unions, promised President Barack Obama they would reduce the growth rate of their future incomes by 1.5 percent over the next ten years." Now you can add another corporate behemoth to the list of supporters of advocating more government involvement in health care: Wal-Mart. Today, the nation's largest retailer released a letter supporting an employer mandate.

At first glance, the idea of the notoriously cheap chain favoring liberal reforms might seem like a shock. But it really isn't a huge surprise considering that Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott partnered with the Service Employees International Union's Andy Stern to push for universal health care more than two years ago.

Why would Wal-Mart do this? In part, because it's a good PR move. The company has long been the target of complaints that it treats its labor force shabbily. Partnering with a big union like the SEIU and supporting universal coverage allows the company an opportunity to soften its corporate image.

But it's also a good from a competitive standpoint. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest employer, can afford the costs imposed by an employer mandate. Smaller competitors are likely to find it harder -- and they're not too happy about Wal-Mart's announcement. The Chamber of Commerce released a scathing response. From Jeffrey Young's report in The Hill:

"Some businesses make the decision to use the government as a weapon against their competition," James Gelfand, the Chamber's senior manager for health policy, said in a statement. "We do not agree with this method — the government is a blunt instrument and taxes have extreme unintended consequences, negatively affecting the economy as a whole."


As David Brooks writes in his column today, this is exactly what you ought to expect in a free-spending government dominated by the legislative branch. "Barack Obama, the most riveting of recent presidents, is leading us into an era of Congressional dominance. And Congressional governance is a haven for special interest pleading and venal logrolling." Wal-Mart recognizes this, and is trying to grab any advantage while it can.

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  • ||

    Big corporations love big government.

    Film at 11.

  • ||

    Here is another reason why walmart likes this:

    They have a crap load of pharmacies, and it will become a loss leader for them. More insured people = more people on drugs = more people going to wally world for prescriptions.

    That and the whole "driving other out of business thing"

  • ||

    That is right Dagmar. The big guys love government mandates. Had old Sam Walton had to give his employees health insurance from the start, we wouldn't know who he is and would still be shopping at Ben Franklin and Woolworths. Now that Wall Mart is on top, they want to make sure any future Sam Waltons don't get any big ideas about competing with them.

  • Peter||

    Eh, I'll still shop there. As long as there are union workers sitting outside a place protesting, I can assure myself that that is where I want to shop.

  • ||

    One big corporation/government appears to be the goal.

  • MNG||

    Pro
    Will it be called the United States of Lexcorp?

  • ||

    No MNG. It will known as the Soylent Corporation.

  • Peter||

    These green crackers taste like...

  • The Angry Optimist||

    *le sigh* - now I have to shop somewhere else. Good thing there's still Meijer.

  • hmm||

    Pharmacies and they are working a doc in a box plan. Wal-mart is after revenue plain and simple. The image is something they don't worry about nearly as much as the media makes it seem. I'd wager they have yet to show any significant loss from their image or lack there of. It's hard to point to a company and scream "bad company" when they are doing what is helpful in order to grow. It isn't right and it may very well backfire. Government is using Walmart and Walmart is using government. Is it a sinister marriage? Sure. Is it a company acting like a company? Yup. Unfortunately today the need of large companies to massage the political climate and the political climate massaging large businesses has reached new heights. It may not be a new idea, but with corporations like GE surviving and growing on legislation and tax breaks and stunts like this from Walmart it's getting silly. Why not suckle at the endless cash teet. That is until the people get really pissed off. Then it all looks like a pretty bad idea.

    I'm kind of amazed their attempt at banking hasn't been rejuvenated given the current climate.

    The whole thing is kind of chicken v. egg and ugly all round.

  • ||

    Wal-Mart can afford to comply with a universal healthcare plan, it's smaller mainstream competitors cannot.

    It's another example of cognitive dissonance on the left. How can you hate big business at the same time you demand government programs that prop up those same big businesses? You can't decry the withering of mom-n-pop boutique stores at the same time you enact legislation that significantly impacts their margin.

  • ||

    United Soylent Association.

  • ||

    hmm,

    I was just wondering about that--why isn't Wal-Mart pushing for the bank charter again? One would think this would be a good time for it. Maybe they're just waiting for the new legislation to settle in.

  • ||

    Eh, I have had to comfort myself with the prognostications of doomsday troubadors like Kuntsler. He predicts that its 12,000 mile supply chain will kill Walmart.

    TAO, before you jump ugly, I do read more than just Rothbard, Rockwell and the box scores.

  • ||

    Wal-mart already relies on national healthcare: Medicaid.

  • ||

    Bandybuck, how much sincere leftist advocacy of the "withering mom n' pop botique stores" is there?

  • ||

    Having worked for Wal-Mart to put myself through school I really hate the companies new leadership. They lack any foresight and tend to trade long-term future gains for short term gains. Maybe that is what they teach at Harvard I don't know, but its garbage.

    First they replaced the very simple profit sharing bonus plan with a highly complex plan no one understands - it focuses on sales...for no other reason than boosting short term stock prices. I mean, seriously, you could cut back on profits to increase sales - it was simple stupidity.

    Then they came out in favor of higher minimum wages.

    And now this.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    so for smart investors, perhaps you should consider dumping Wal*Mart stock. I don't know much about the lifecycle of a particular business, but once it starts acting like ADM, maybe it's time to cut and run?

  • ||

    "Some businesses make the decision to use the government as a weapon against their competition," James Gelfand, the Chamber's senior manager for health policy, said in a statement. "We do not agree with this method

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA -- tell that to the florists in LA

  • hmm||

    Walmart shifted its long term focus over seas and shortened its domestic goals. They are rapidly running out of room to grow. So its into new markets like healthcare and banking which is a risky diversion from what they do and know or move what they do well elsewhere. Both are fraught with difficulties. Not an extremely uncommon strategy.

  • Alice Bowie||

    We should have more companies like Walmart.

    You know companies that:

    1. Hire ONLY part-time workers to avoid bene'ss
    2. Not offer any healthcare ... at all
    3. Work to eliminate the minimum wage
    4. Lobby to make the FINAL GOVERNMENT REGULATION that states that "GOVERNMENT CAN NO LONGER MAKEW ANY REGULATIONS concerning commerce."

    Tell me you libertarians out there....wouldn't everything in America be much better if ALL companies did this?

    Once we get rid of all government programs like medicare, medicaid, welfare, federal reserve bank, FTC, SEC, etc., etc., etc. ... and just simply let the free market run free... wouldn't that be much much better.

    Just think, you can use all the tax dollars saved from those useless programs to support Israel, Africa, and the like.

  • Tricky Prickears||

    Larger companies have always benefited from the employer based system simply because they get a better group rate. So what, now the larger companies are going to get a larger tax break or some kind of subsidy on top of that? I don't understand this shit. So, the smaller companies will be forced into a government run plan, which will be shit compared to the private plans the big corporations can afford? Let me guess, the government run plan will be administered by the same companies that supply the private plans? Where exactly is all this going? Why should any company benefit by offering insurance to employees other than to lure quality employees to their company? What's next? Car insurance? Home owner's insurance? Flood insurance (haha). The entire employer based system and managed care should be thrown in the fucking toilet. The problems other countries face with single payer ain't going to be nothing compared to what's going to happen here. This is the kind of shit that makes me want to donate to Ralph Nader. (Just kidding).

  • Peter||

    1. Hire ONLY part-time workers to avoid bene'ss
    2. Not offer any healthcare ... at all
    3. Work to eliminate the minimum wage
    4. Lobby to make the FINAL GOVERNMENT REGULATION that states that "GOVERNMENT CAN NO LONGER MAKEW ANY REGULATIONS concerning commerce."


    1. Good business strategy.
    2. Good business strategy.
    3. Well, since raising the minimum wage just causes inflation and doesn't actually help the workers except in the short term...I don't care if it goes away. Oh yeah, and good business strategy.
    4. No more regulation? Oh well that I just won't stand for!

    Tell me you libertarians out there....wouldn't everything in America be much better if ALL companies did were free to do this?

    Sure, why not?

  • mark||

    Over the Fourth of July weekend, you may want to contact your Congressman about the Patients' Choice Act.

  • JB||

    Lee Scott = piece of shit fuckbag.

    Walmart is nothing but a bunch of shit. Don't shop there.

  • Alice Bowie||

    1. Slavery

    1. Good business strategy

  • Alice Bowie||

    1. Shipping all the jobs abroad

    1. Good business strategy

  • Alice Bowie||

    1. Child labor

    1. Good business strategy

  • </||

    1.Cheap Ammo!

    1.Good business strategy

  • ||

    1. False. 60% of Walmart employees are full time.

    2. False. 50% of Walmart employees receive health insurance from Walmart. 43% are on Medicare. 7% are uninsured. All 100% have the option of participating in the Walmart plan.

    Alice, why do you feel compelled to lie to make your point?

  • Mike Laursen||

    1. Hire ONLY part-time workers to avoid bene'ss

    There's time to debate about Wal-Mart later, but for now may I ask how you came up with "bene'ss" as your spelling for a common colloquial term for "benefits". Why the doubled 's'?

  • ||

    Greeeaat.
    Another business I have to boycott.
    This is getting difficult.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    don't listen to Alice. S/he is total ignoramus and incapable of making a point that isn't stupid and/or racist.

  • ||

    Bandybuck, how much sincere leftist advocacy of the "withering mom n' pop botique stores" is there?



    If you're going to quote me, at least quote me correctly. See those quote marks above? It means you're trying to quote me. You got it wrong. And then you left off the verb to make it seem like I said the opposite of what I did.

    For those of you in Rio Linda, here is what I actually said (which you can verify by scrolling up to where I actually said it): "You can't decry the withering of mom-n-pop boutique stores..."

  • Mike Laursen||

    don't listen to Alice. S/he is total ignoramus and incapable of making a point that isn't stupid and/or racist.

    You're talking about Alice like he or she is a real person. Please tell me that it ain't so.

  • ||

    He,

    I read Alice Bowie's first point I thought it was an argument in favor of Walmart.

    All of them read like a list of "fuck you government"
    I thought, fuck yeah Walmart kicks ass.

    I didn't understand that last point though, why do we want government to have more money to give to Israel? I don't want the government to have more money for anything.

    Then, from the replies it seems like Alice was lying, and that Walmart does not kick that much ass. And that Walmart is in favor of some kind of corporate socialism much like Alice is (I believe it is called fascism? though that word might be over used and improperly used)

    And then to Alice's remark about slavery.
    It is not a good business strategy. It is a government strategy, and one that gives its practitioners a disadvantage compared to the free market.

  • ||

    thread is the dead?

  • Punk||

    Me thinks Alice is mixing up "libertarian" and "Republican". Common error seeing as POTUS Barry and his statist tendencies get trashed around here so one would assume we're a bunch of Republitards. Problem is that good ole' "W" gets his spanking too and I'm not so sure there's many libertarians that are all too thrilled about propping up foreign governments (I don't).

    Shit, that was a waste of 5 minutes of my life.

  • Hat Trick||

    "Barack Obama, the most riveting of recent presidents, is leading us into an era of Congressional dominance"

    Hold on a second. When Bush was increasing executive power at the expense of Congress, it was a terrible thing. Now that Obama is reversing that, it's horrible too. Which one's it going to be?

  • Ed||

    Just to clarify for those to whom business strategies are hypothetical because you have never run one .. hiring part-timers and not offering benefits are not good business strategies. Depending on the industry and market, doing so may be business suicide.

    The single hardest part of running a business is getting and keeping good workers. In the short run, yeah you can save a few bucks by getting clever with your HR policies. In the long run, it will cost you much more in employee turnover, absenteeism, pilferage, and general poor performance. You want to build a profitable business that will last, you have to invest in a quality team at all levels. This is not statism or socialism, it is smart capitalism.

  • ||

    Alice,

    You don't know what you are talking about. Wal-Mart deserves criticism because its Harvard leadership is full of short thinking Keynesians that don't understand what profits and long term growth are. The company is simply managed by a bunch of statists and corporatists.

    Having worked at Wal-Mart let me first say that a lot of the people that work there are glad to have jobs. Some are down on their luck and need work to help pay the bills. Others were moms who needed a second income for their families to make life a little more comfortable. Some, would not have a job if it wasn't for Wal-Mart.

    2nd. Learn something about incomes. Your income represents your productivity level. Companies don't pay you more because you are nice they pay you because you produce. Companies don't care whether it is paid in cash or health care benefits.

    3rd. Not a single Wal-Mart worker made minimum wage. I started out at $7.25 an hour…not bad for the middle of OKLAHOMA!

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