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November 2012, Week 2

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Mon, 12 Nov 2012 21:36:21 -0500
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Wal-Mart's Catastrophic Health Plan

by Al Norman
http://www.sprawl-busters.com/search.php?readstory=3992
2012-11-12

Bentonville, AR.

Wal-Mart corporate issued a press release about a month
ago, touting its "first-of-its-kind" program that will
offer its employees free health coverage for such
catastrophic expenses as heart, spine and transplant
services using 6 "Centers of Excellence." Patients must
be healthy enough to travel for the surgeries.

But that announcement seems trivial compared to the
story which came out today saying that Wal-Mart's basic
health plan premiums were going to rise by as much as
36%, with employees paying a minimum of $1,750 in
deductibles, plus the monthly premiums, before Wal-Mart
pays for a penny of their care.

What Wal-Mart has done is move towards higher and
higher deductibles, and more and more benefits
back-loaded on the catastrophic side. The fact is, the
vast majority of Wal-Mart's 1.4 million U.S. employees
will never need heart or spinal surgery, much less
transplant surgery. By making a lot of noise about
these little-used benefits, Wal-Mart seeks to deflect
attention away from the expensive front-end costs of
these plans to its workers, which results in nearly
half of them not buying the company plan.

According to the Reuters story on Wal-Mart's health
plans, employees interviewed said they would be forced
to drop the company's health plan when the premiums
rise. "I really can't even afford it now," one employee
told Reuters,"so for it to go up even a dollar for me
is a stretch,"

A Wal-Mart employer, who is also a member of OUR
Wal-Mart, a group that has been encouraging workers to
stand up against the retailer, told me this week that
she doesn't buy the company's health plan because "the
deductible is so high." Many of these workers can get a
better deal by signing up for Medicaid, the
state/federal health plan for poor people. In a number
of state studies of the Medicaid rolls, Wal-Mart
employees and their dependents rank #1 in the private
employee's use of taxpayer-supported health care.

To cover only the very catastrophic expenses, Wal-Mart
cut contracts with six health providers: the Cleveland
Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio; Geisinger Medical Center in
Danville, Pa.; Mayo Clinic sites in Rochester, Minn.,
Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz., and Jacksonville, Fla.;
Mercy Hospital Springfield in Springfield, Mo; Scott &
White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas; and Virginia
Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Wash.

"We have identified six renowned health care systems
that meet the highest quality standards for heart,
spine and transplant surgery," a Wal-Mart spokesperson
said. "Through these hospital systems, our associates
will have no out-of-pocket expenses and a greater peace
of mind knowing they are receiving exceptional care
from a facility that specializes in the procedure they
require. This is the first time a retailer has offered
a comprehensive, nationwide program for heart, spine
and transplant surgery."

But almost half of Wal-Mart's workers have no peace of
mind at all when it comes to health care. They simply
aren't paid enough to buy health care where they work.

What you can do: Wal-Mart told Reuters that all its
full-time associates are offered the same plan as
company executives---except it's much easier for CEO
Michael Duke to pay the deductibles and premiums than
the starting worker making $8.90 per hour. It's a nice
sound bite for Wal-Mart, but ability to pay still
separates the frontline worker from the store managers
and top Executives. The focus on catastrophic coverage,
while undermining the basic entry level preventive
plans, shows just how upside-down Wal-Mart health plans
have become.

Readers are urged to contact Wal-Mart Media relations
at 1-800-331-0085 with the following message:

"I'm calling to urge Wal-Mart to perform some radical
surgery on your wage scale, so that your employees can
afford to buy basic health insurance without having to
go on Medicaid. As it stands now, your employees won't
be getting free bypass surgery because they can't
afford the basic plan in first place. You need to take
care of your workers before they need transplants or
spinal surgery. Your high deductible plans discourage
workers from having any health coverage from Wal-Mart,
leaving the taxpayers to pick up the cost of your
workers' health."

Al Norman's new book is OCCUPY WALMART. To learn more
go to: occupywalmartbook.com. To reach Al, call
1-978-502-3794 cell phone, Eastern Standard Time.

___________________________________________

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