Companies like Wal-Mart have deflected all responsibility for their employees’ health costs. They keep the mix of part-timers very high, which means they don’t have to offer benefits such as health insurance. But part-time pay is so low that these folks can’t afford insurance. When they get sick, the costs of their healthcare is picked up by the taxpayers.
Wait a minute – isn’t that like a tax that Wal-Mart charges the communities it serves?
Effective solutions to social ills almost always require a partnership between the public and private sectors. Based on what we have seen so far, private companies like Wal-Mart have no intention of voluntarily working on way to get insurance coverage for the portion of the 45 million uninsured Americans who are Wal-Mart “associates.” The time has come for government action.
Writing in The Nation, Liza Featherstone looks at how the public sector is dragging private industry into the debate, whether they like it or not:
More and more states are considering similar legislation, thanks to a growing and coordinated national movement. A pending Pennsylvania bill would require firms with fifty or more workers to provide data on how many workers depend on public assistance for health care. Other states and localities debating Wal-Mart-inspired measures similar to Maryland’s–requiring large companies to ensure workers or contribute to Medicaid– include New Jersey, Georgia, New York City, California, Montana and Connecticut. To keep abreast of these developments, and take action, sign up for updates at www.americansforhealthcare.org.
If Wal-Mart find these bills irksome, and still doesn’t want to provide decent health insurance for its workers, the company should lobby for national health insurance. That’s unlikely, of course, but let’s hope the political battle over Wal-Mart’s benefits at least convinces Americans that our health is too important to be left to the whim of greedy employers.