Wal-Mart Decides That It's Cheaper to Hire New Employees Than Take Care of the Ones They Have:
So, ha-ha-ha, back in 2008, a moustachioed handicapper of stocks (also known as "Crazy-Ass Guessing") named Jim Jubak wrote a column for MSN Money titled "Let Wal-Mart Fix U.S. Health Care." Oh, how he mocked Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's plans for doing the deed. And his solution was to look to America's largest private employer and its low-priced drugs and new walk-in clinics for how to bend the market to the consumer's will: "Wal-Mart has done more to expand coverage and lower costs in the past year than any government program to come out of Washington in the past 10 years. And I'd bet the new programs that this company -- known for stiffing its own part-time workers on health care benefits -- has announced in the past year will do more to expand coverage and cut costs than anything likely to come out of a McCain, Clinton or Obama first term."
After criticizing the company for failing to insure its part-time workers, Jubak said, "The company has cut the waiting period on health insurance for part-time workers to 12 months. (For 2007, the company set a goal of having 50% of its employees covered by company health insurance. The national average at big companies in the United States is 63%.) Children of part-time workers will be eligible for company health benefits."
Let's see how that went. Probably a rousing success filled with rainbows and lollipops available at discount prices, right? Nope. Except for the cheap drugs, it's nothing but a failed clusterfuck of dashed hopes and dreams topped with uninsured employees still working for shit wages. In other words, just like America.
Yeah, the whole clinic thing ended up a flop of Pawlentian proportions. By mid-2009, with ambitions to have 400 open with 2000 possible, Wal-Mart had 31. Even today, there's less than 200. You're more likely to get health care from a free clinic being held in a Wal-Mart parking lot than in the store.
And the super-mega-retailer's part-time employees? They're fucked. If you work under 24 hours a week doing the soul-crushing labor of stocking the shelves at the Supercenter, watching the poverty-stricken, obese moving bodies we used to call "people" using their carts as walkers as they decide whether to get new stretch pants or that double-sized bag of nachos with their disability checks as your fellow employees cower in fear that the ghost of Sam Walton will enter their brains and eat them from the inside if they even dare think of unionizing, you can't get health insurance from Wal-Mart, for you or your kids. (If you work 25-33 hours, you can't get it for your spouse, although you're allowed to buy in for your kids - no change there.)
Plus, it gets worse for the full-timers. Now, they've gotta pay more for their insurance - for instance, 40% more if they smoke - with a much higher deductible: "Barbara Collins, a sales associate at the Wal-Mart in Placerville, Calif., said that the premiums for the H.M.O. plan for herself and her 5-year-old son would rise to $18 every two weeks from $10. Her big concern, she said, was that her deductible would jump to $5,000 a year, from $1,000 — a daunting amount considering she earns $19,000 a year."
Wal-Mart says the cost has gotten too high for it to continue to expand coverage and that it needs to contribute less to current policies. And that it needs to lower prices even more, even if that cheaper Sam's brand cola comes out of the blood and bone of its employees. Perhaps, at the end of the day, it's just more profitable to train new cashiers if the current ones die of illnesses they can't afford.
By the way, in August, Wal-Mart reported a 5.7% rise in 2nd quarter profits. It made $3.8 billion in profit in that 3 months.
Which, if you think about it, means Wal-Mart is acting just like the U.S. health care system.