As the nation engages in vigorous health insurance debate, there is, perhaps no greater example of why we need a public option than the example of Wal-Mart’s health insurance offerings. Employees of the conglomerate are no longer treated in the manner in which Sam Walton wished them to be treated – fairly, with honest compensation for honest work. Instead, Wal-Mart’s benefit system is an intricate spider-web of rules and caveats designed to discourage employees from partaking of the private system and encourage them to use the public system of welfare and Medicaid.
If costing America 200,000 jobs between 2001 and 2006 by importing cheap, lead infested product from china wasn’t enough, Wal-Mart, at the very least, makes it more difficult by far than the average company for its workers to obtain, use, and pay for health insurance.
To put the impact that the cost of health care has on the average Wal-Mart employee in perspective, one must look at the average pay and average hours of the employees. A cashier at Wal-Mart makes $8.44 an hour and works an average of 29 hours a week. This equates to about $12,700 annually. To be fair, a department manager makes, on average, $11.99 an hour and, as it’s safe to assume they average 40 hours a week, and make $25,000 a year.
Now we know what the average Wal-Mart employee makes – lets take a look at the menu of health insurance they have available to them. First- keep in mind that only 43% of Wal-Mart employees have health insurance . We’ve established that the average cashier at Wal-Mart makes $12,700 a year. If they opt for the cheapest individual health insurance plan, they’ll spend $3,049.00 or if they have a family, the best policy with the least amount of possible cash out of pocket will cost them $7,917.00 annually, leaving them about $4,500 a year to live on.
Obviously, this is not sustainable. Wal-Mart employees do not buy this health insurance if they are the primary bread-winner. They simply can not. But they do still get sick.
This is where you and I come in. Last year, Wal-Mart posted $12.73 Billion dollars (that’s with a B, folks) in profit, yet in the twenty-four states that post such data, Wal-Mart topped the list in employees taking public health assistance, to the tune of $898 per person.
Now read closely- I fully endorse the right of American corporation to make big fat healthy Billion with a “B” dollar profits. Just don’t do it at my expense, ok? Wal-Mart’s use of taxpayer dollars to subsidize their profit isn’t ok with me. I have not set foot in a Wal-Mart since I was first made aware of numbers like this seven years ago and I will not until they return to the days of Sam Walton, who promised “Share your profits with your associates, and treat them as partners. In turn, they will treat you as a partner, and together you will all perform beyond your wildest expectations.” In seven years, the numbers haven’t changed. Memos have been released that verify that Wal-Mart does this intentionally; denying full-time workers adequate hours and encouraging high turn-over in order to ensure that workers don’t qualify for insurance anyway.
Health insurance reform will shift the burden off the taxpayer and back onto Wal-Mart and it’s employees. Supporting a public option is crucial – but do not let the employer mandate go by the wayside in the process.