One of the radio stations I often listen to on my ride to and from work has lately been running an ad paid for by Wal-Mart that promotes the company as a kind and caring corporation — you know, always looking out for their employees. The first time I heard the ad, I talked back to the radio. (Something along the lines of “Oh brother!”) The more I heard the ad, the less I thought about it.
The one afternoon I was stopped at a light and I heard it again — the one where the announcer’s smooth voice says that “through Wal-Mart’s health care benefits for employees and their families, over a million people have insurance!” — and I suddenly realized that if people hear this crap over and over again, they just might believe it.
First of all, stop and think about that statistic for a moment. They’re not saying that one million employees have health insurance, because that’s not even close to reality. Also, what level of health care benefits are we talking about here? Well, Wal-Mart Watch is a website full of research about the realities behind the claims made by Mr Smooth Talking Radio Announcer:
Wal-Mart Health Insurance Coverage Lags Far Behind National Average. Nationally, 64% of workers in very large firms (5,000 employees or more) receive their health benefits from their employer. Wal-Mart typically covers around 50% of its employees.
Wal-Mart Employees Still Wait Twice As Long For Health Care Coverage Than Workers At Other Retailers. The Wal-Mart average for full-time workers to qualify for benefits is six months, compared to the retail average of 2.6 months. Part-time employees must wait a full year before receiving benefits. Since the majority of workers do not stay a year, the majority never get health care.
Wal-Mart’s health plan options are unaffordable for its employees. To get Wal-Mart’s choice network family plan (associate + family) with a $322.60 bi-weekly premium, $700 annual deductible, $500 health care credit, and $4000 out-of-pocket medical expenses could potentially cost over $12,000 a year and the average Wal-Mart employee makes approximately only $20,000 a year.
Employees With Pre-existing Conditions Must Wait At Least One Year For Treatment. After finally reaching eligibility after six months or one year, depending on employment status, an employee must wait an additional year to receive full coverage for a pre-existing condition.
Wal-Mart Charges For Extra Emergency Room Visits. Wal-Mart charges an additional deductible of $100 for emergency room visits. This re-occurring cost on top of the already high deductible devalues the effectiveness of insurance and punishes employees for severe illness and injury.
In Those States That Have Released Data On Companies With Employees Receiving State-Funded Health Care, Wal-Mart Tops The List. Twenty-five states have tracked and reported the number of employees and dependants that the largest employers within their borders have enrolled in state-funded health care programs, and in those states, Wal-Mart is at the head of the line for public assistance. In all states that have released such data – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin – Wal-Mart tops the list. In Arkansas, where Wal-Mart’s own headquarters is located, 3,971 of Wal-Mart’s 45,106 employees are on public assistance.
Wal-Mart Has Admitted Many Of Its Workers And Their Families Rely On Public Programs. A memo written by Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart Executive Vice President for Benefits, for the Wal-Mart Board of Directors, said: “Specifically, our coverage is expensive for low-income families, and Wal-Mart has a significant percentage of associates and their children on public assistance.”17 “Five percent of our Associates are on Medicaid compared to an average for national employers of 4 percent. Twenty-seven percent of Associates’ children are on such programs, compared to a national average of 22 percent. In total, 46 percent of Associates’ children are either on Medicaid or are uninsured.”
It’s very easy to let the message of an entity like Wal-Mart play over and over and over again, until the American public — sheep that we have proven ourselves to be — starts believing it and repeating it.
Don’t believe it. Don’t repeat it. Question it — always question it.