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July 01, 2009

WSJ Opinion: Wal-Mart's Latest Move on "Pay or Play" Healthcare Not Necessarily Altruistic


This week the nation's largest employer blessed an employer mandate, aka "pay or play." This would require businesses that do not offer "meaningful coverage" -- i.e., government-approved -- to pay some percentage of their payroll to a federal insurance plan. This mandate is one of the more controversial policies in the Democratic health package, and Wal-Mart's endorsement will help it along, or at least give liberals political cover against business criticism.

The Boys from Bentonville are a little more interested in the cover it provides them against assaults from the Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers, both of which have been fighting like hell to organize Wal-Mart stores (and losing) for 10+ years.

Not to mention giving themselves another competitive advantage over smaller businesses who can't afford to do what they already do, which is pay workers above minimum wage and negotiate powerfully better rates for private health care insurance because of their f'n' ginormousness.

Wal-Mart sees two other advantages in this beyond the PR win. a) They get to help steer the crafting of a public health care bill, and b) pushing the public health care plan helps them dodge a very real hit to the bottom line, a forced employer health care requirement targeted at businesses who employ lower-wage earners.

They're terrified of being shut out of Democratic health negotiations lest they get stuck with the bill. Wal-Mart may also be trying to pre-empt an employer mandate the Senate is considering that would target companies with predominantly low-wage, low-skilled or entry-level work forces.

The problem the rest of us face is that businesses would just as soon hand off this crap to government and pass along the incremental cost rather than eat it at the expense of competitiveness.

Meanwhile Obama continues to lie about his intent (to get rid of private insurance altogether, while saying he doesn't want that at all) by claiming all innocently "If it's such a great deal, why are they worried about competing against the public plan especially when they say government can't do anything?"


It's utter bullshit, but I repeat myself, because the public health option will not have to carry huge financial reserves that the private carriers must, and the public option will dictate the fees to providers for service (they already do), private carriers will continue to have to negotiate these things. And take into account the forced lowball from the other side.

Not exactly a level playing field.

The good news is that all Americans will get to enjoy crappier care, pay for it anyway in taxes, in many cases die waiting for care, and euthanize the elderly for the benefit of the greater good.

SO I don't see a downside to this, but I'm still working through the details.

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posted by Dave In Texas at 11:01 PM

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