Governors Focus on Health
National Governors Association Healthy America Forum and Winter Meeting
Washington, DC,  February 25-28, 2006    ...1 of 3 >
February 26, 2006--Wal-Mart Store, Inc. CEO Lee Scott spoke on "A New Commitment for America."  Wal-Mart, the largest employer in the United States, has faced criticism for providing inadequate health benefits to its employees.  Maryland has even taken legislative action to address the issue.  On January 12, 2006 Maryland legislators overrode Gov. Robert Ehrlich's veto and approved the Fair Share Health Care Fund Act, requiring employers with 10,000 or more employees in the state to spend at least 8% of total wages on health insurance costs or pay the difference.  (The law is facing a court challenge, but groups such as Wal-Mart Watch and the United Food and Commercial Workers' are seeking to replicate the effort in other states).  Scott denounced such measures as "a little too much politics," noting that they "discourage companies from offering quality health care at a lower cost" and "won't do a single thing to control the cost of health care."  He vowed that Wal-Mart will "take significant steps to make our health benefits even more affordable and accessible to the working families that we employ."

Specifically, he stated:

"First, we're going to significantly reduce the waiting period for our part-time associates.  Second, we'll be extending the availability of our Value Plan for $11 per month and $.30 more a day for children to about half of our associates within the next year.  Third, all children of part-time Wal-Mart associates will be eligible for health coverage as soon as their parents become eligible."

Scott also spoke of Wal-Mart's experiments with health clinics in a few of its stores.  He emphasized the need to control costs.  "The fact is the soaring cost of health care in America cannot be sustained over the long term by any business that offers health benefits to its employees," Scott said.  He lauded the NGA's Healthy America initiative as "the right kind of approach."

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Natonal Governors Association
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc
Maryland: Fair Share Health Care Fund Act
Wal-Mart Watch
Copyright ©  2006  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action