The real price of Wal-Mart’s low cost health insurance…

Recently, Wal-Mart has introduced a series of public image polishing commercials that boast their “less than a dollar a day” health care plan available to all Wal-Mart associates. Wal-Mart claims in their commercials and at their public relations website, that the company insures 80% of their associates or roughly 1 million employees and that the coverage provided only costs the average associate about $23.00 per month or sometimes less depending on their geographic area, while families can be covered for only $15.00 more per month. The PR document posted on the website goes on to highlight $3.00 co-pays for prescriptions, the doubling of matching funds for health care savings accounts by the company and a new initiative to make health insurance available to part-time employees as well (1). On the surface, all of this sounds very compassionate and progressive however, one thing is conspicuously missing from the document – what kind of care does your $23.00 get you? Although Wal-Mart does mention in this document that a $1000 health care deductible does exist for individuals, it fails to mention that a $3000 deductible exists for families and that those waiting for enrollment wait twice as long as associates at other retailers. The plans offered are also filled with hidden fees and charges (2). Examples include a $300.00 “Pharmacy” deductible and a $500.00 “Out-Patient Service” deductible. The set-up of the new health savings account is complicated and confusing as well, getting off to a disappointing start (3). Wal-Mart is also at or near the top of a list of companies who employee the most people who depend on state funded health care programs (4). That statistic has barely changed with this new initiative. To be frank, my cats “Pet-Med” policy is more comprehensive. In all fairness, Wal-Mart is not remotely alone in masquerading their low-cost, limited-benefit health plan as sound health coverage for those in their employ. Many large companies including McDonald’s, Lowe’s and others that cannot or will not pay for skyrocketing health costs have chosen to offer watered down coverage for a low weekly out-of-pocket expense in the spirit of not being seen as the bad guys. Unfortunately for the unsuspecting insurance-desperate service worker, these coverages do little or nothing to offset costs for the seriously ill. In the end, if this is the only option available, the American retail sector worker must often choose – take the watered down coverage that will only help with sprained ankles and sore throats, or nothing at all. I suppose “Check-Up-Time Elmo” might be a third option. The reality is that none of these limited benefit plans will help these workers through a major ordeal like a serious car accident, back surgery, or cancer, without leaving tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid costs at the feet of the insured. Maybe some of those pseudo-insured Wal-Mart associates should ask themselves before this latest feel good PR campaign gets real traction…what did that $23.00 buy me again?Posted by Matthew J. Podoba 03/11/07    Sources… (1) Wal-Mart Associates Benefits Book PP 32 and 38.(3) NY Times 02/27/06(4) Associated Press 03/03/05 


Posted on April 3, 2007, in Labor and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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