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February 24, 2006

He's Got Us There

Dale Franks is right here. Responding to a Washington State Senator's cry that taxpayers should be outraged by Wal-Mart's reliance on public programs for their employees, Franks observes:

Just out of curiousity, why should taxpayers be outraged? This is after all, precisely what the Democratic party has been arguing for for decades. For a half-century, Democrats have been arguing that what America really needs is a universal health-care system, funded by taxes. Indeed, the only reason why Wal-Mart employees are eligible for Medicaid in the first place is because Democrats made a push to amend Medicaid so that the working poor could get Medicaid benefits, even though they are employed.

So, it's a little silly to be complaining that Wal-Mart employees are using Medicaid benefits when the goal of the Democratic Party is ensure that everyone gets taxpayer-funded benefits.

Yep. In fact, it's probably a helluva lot more efficient for the government to be picking up the tab. What taxpayers should be outraged by is that Wal-Mart isn't following their ethos to its logical conclusion and loudly advocating for a universal health care system. They should be angry at the hypocrisy, not the usage of federal/state health programs.

That's why I'm a bit nonplussed over reports that Wal-Mart will increase their health insurance offerings. A bunch of bargain basement plans that give a couple more employees nominal coverage while loosening the pressure for a better solution doesn't strike me as particularly celebration-worthy. It's good to see Wal-Mart groaning under the public relations pressure here, but their accelerating submissiveness needs to be channeled into service of a national resolution to this problem, not a slight betterment for no one save Wal-Mart's part-time employees.

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Comments

Nonplussed!

Posted by: Adrock | Feb 24, 2006 12:48:28 PM

Well, Medicaid is not Medicare (or universal national health insurance either) - it is far below the acceptability bar for family health care, not to mention that many MDs just do not accept Medicaid patients because the payments are inadequate.

Having to jump through the state and national qualification (and continued qualification) loops to get covered by Medicaid while working is a demeaning process, at best. And the states are dramatically cutting back the treatments available under Medicaid in response to Congressional cutbacks in federal support to the states for Medicaid.

Patch upon fairled patch upon stupid patch: The American Healthcare 'system'.

I don't disagree that Walmart employees should be able to obtain Medicaid if they meet qualifications. I'm more upset that Walmart employees make so little in wages that they actually qualify for Medicaid. It is like US soldiers having to apply for food stamps because their pay won't support a family.

I do agree however that propping up the current laughable 'system' moves in the wrong direction. But when has that ever prevented the privitizers from wanting more 'free market' goodies for the drug and health care 'industry'.

Posted by: JimPortandOR | Feb 24, 2006 12:53:39 PM

What's outrageous is that a person can have a full time job and make so little money that they are eligible for medicaid! However, there is no reason that employers should be responsible for health insurance. Clearly, health insurance does not have enough margin to make it profitable to offer it to everyone at a reasonable cost, so it is one of those things like roads (although I have recently heard of efforts to privatize those) that fall upon the gov't to provide. Health ins in the hands of the private sector allows some ins companies to make money, but is, obviously an economically inefficient system.

Posted by: Cathy | Feb 24, 2006 1:17:27 PM

The problem, though, is that WalMart fancies it has a competitive advantage right now, that the government pays THEIR employees' health care, but not that of CostCo. If there were universal health care, then WalMart would lose one of its competitive advantages.

Posted by: emptywheel | Feb 24, 2006 3:14:33 PM

According to Webster's, both 'nonplussed' and 'nonplused' are correct.

Posted by: Alexander "Benjamins" Hamilton | Feb 24, 2006 3:15:56 PM

Good point emptywheel.

Posted by: Cathy | Feb 24, 2006 4:07:09 PM

I thought the same thing emptywheel did, and so was puzzled by Ezra's post. The problem isn't that Walmart doesn't provide health insurance; it's that by not providing health insurance, it effectively externalizes to the community what ought to be (under the current, deeply flawed model) part of its costs of doing business. In other words, it's prices ain't really that low, because we subsidize its employees' compensation in ways that we don't subsididize its competitors' employees if those competitors offer health insurance.

Posted by: paperwight | Feb 24, 2006 4:28:50 PM

Business has always secretly loved the welfare state, because the alternative is unions. Walter Russell Mead has a good little summary of this in his War, Power, Peace, and Terror. For instance, there's no minimum wage in Italy--everyone's unionized.

Posted by: Steve | Feb 24, 2006 7:01:35 PM

And remember, WalMart is often able to locate and build in the first place because of huge tax cuts. This is what Thomas Nephew calls Freeloading as Business Model, when he addressed this issue.

Posted by: eRobin | Feb 24, 2006 7:02:03 PM

I agree with Cathy--forcing businesses to pay for healthcare isn't the way to go. Businesses are tired of being burdened with taking care of employees outside of business hours. The best, most efficient way to provide healthcare is with a universal plan that is funded out of a tax on worker's pay......and if Workman's Comp would be incorporated into the Universal Plan businesses would be overjoyed and I'm sure increase their employees pay a little more to cover the healthcare plan costs.

Posted by: Steve Mudge | Feb 24, 2006 9:42:17 PM

Well, considering businesses and their "workday" take up 40 or more hours of a persons life each week, its kind of ridiculous to say that businesses are "burdened" with taking care of their employees in the "off hours" (what off hours?). While this was more relevent during an era of manufacturing, your health is often times intimately related with the work you do, from the obvious black lung, asbestos, and other occupation related diseases, to the less obvious such as carpal tunnel syndrome, stress, and depression.

Businesses already sap enough of the vitality and profit out of the labor of its workers, and its stupid to somehow think that businesses, whcih are already consume most of peoples day, minds, and energies, should just be let off the hook when it comes to paying ofr health costs. If it's such a "burden" let the CEO's and the board run everything themselves.

Posted by: Sean S. | Feb 25, 2006 3:43:15 AM

In all of these posts no one has mentioned the LAW. Why? Because the employer has no legal responsibility to provide healthcare to anyone, even if you act as if they do. What you are really trying to enforce is PC, a set of rules agreed upon by a mob without any democratic process.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 25, 2006 9:40:17 AM

Like a lynching, freddy-boy?

Posted by: The Dark Avenger | Feb 27, 2006 10:13:10 AM

Okay, the problem is, our health care system sucks. Let's not forget that.

I moved 800 miles a while ago, and for the first two months I lived in the new city, I couldn't find a job. My girlfriend essentially supported me while I did my job search. I had no health insurance at all, and I didn't have a job, obviously. So, when I wound up in the emergency room early on, and racked up a few thousand bucks in medical bills, plus wound up with a brand new monthly prescription that runs (without insurance) around $150 per fill up, well, life should have sucked big time.

However, as I was without insurance and sans visible means of support, the hospital wrote off everything, and issued me a 'gold card' for the pharmacy, letting me get my 'scrip for $7. SEVEN DOLLAH. The little purple pill love you long time for seven dollah, soljah boy.

Now I've got a job, and they just hired me on permanently after six months temping, and so I've been on my temp agencies insurance plan, and now I'm going on my permanent employer's insurance plan. My agency had Aetna, my permanent employer uses United Health Care, and the plans are considered competitive, and if you think any RX plan I can get on is going to give me my 'scrip for anything remotely like $7, you're crazy. (It is, in fact, impossible; the payroll hit for the 'scrip plan adds up to more than $7 per month.)

Our health care system is insane. The only people who can afford decent care are either the wealthy, or those with absolutely no means of support whatsoever.

I should, it seems, become a mugger. At the very least, in terms of quality health care and its attendant costs, there is absolutely NO incentive in our current system to go out and get a job. As soon as you do, your health care costs increase by a factor of ten for any mundane, day to day expenditures.

And let's not forget El Jefe's master plan to address this: more Health Savings Accounts, where you can use your own money (at a slight tax savings) to pay for your health care. Yay!

Posted by: Highlander | Feb 28, 2006 7:28:09 AM

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