While the presidential candidates talk about "health care" Wal-Mart takes action

I just received a press release about Wal Mart that is worth sharing with Juice readers. As an activist who opposes the special treatment offered to “big box” stores by California’s redevelopment agencies I would say that I am no fan of Wal Mart.

The press release states that “the number of associates who now have health care coverage through its new associate-tailored plans for 2008 or another source has significantly increased from 90.4 percent to 92.7 percent, and the number of uninsured associates decreased by more than 20 percent, compared to one year ago.”

Linda Dillman, executive vice president of benefits and risk management for Wal Mart Stores Inc., states “over the past few years, we’ve spent a lot of time listening to our associates and working closely with them to design a benefits package that better meets their needs. She adds. “Just as in the last few years, we are pleased to see an increase in enrollment numbers. With 690,970 associates–and more than 1.1 million associates and dependents in total–now covered by Wal-Mart’s plans, we can see the improvement we’ve made and are being embraced by our associates and their families.”

The press release goes on to state that “during the past year, the percentage of associates who reported having no coverage declined from 9.6 percent to 7.3 percent–a figure significantly lower than the 17.7 percent uninsured rate nationwide for U.S. employed workers that was recently reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.” According to the benefits consulting firm Hewitt Associates, “Wall Mart’s broad eligibility ranks it among the highest in its comparative set of 18 large retailers and grocers.”

It appears that Wal Mart management has acknowledged the concerns of it’s members and others who have questioned their treatment of employees. This data is a good first step in addressing those employee concerns.

The question that I cannot answer is whether of not this was Wal Mart finally being pro-active on health care needs or finally responding to bad press. As we listen to the candidates rhetoric on the health care issue I surely prefer the private sector resolving this issue than having “big brother” imposing his (or her) mandates.


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