Wal-Mart War Shifts to Health Care Benefits

Kate Monaghan | Correspondent | Friday, September 29, 2006

Wal-Mart War Shifts to Health Care Benefits

(CNSNews.Com) - Recent changes in Wal-Mart's health care benefits plan have received heavy criticism by the union backed group, WakeUpWalmart.com, which accuses Wal-Mart of slashing health care for its associates in return for corporate profit. The world's largest retailer counters that its employees may pay less than what they're currently paying under the new benefit structure.

The 2007 Wal-Mart Medical Benefits Booklet outlines Wal-Mart's new health insurance benefits, which eliminate old policies with lower deductibles and replace them with two new policies with premium increases of on average 8.0 percent.

Chris Kofinis, spokesman for WakeUpWalmart.com, said the issue is political because it affects Wal-Mart's employees and American taxpayers.

"This is a political issue because health care is a political issue. This is a political issue because corporate responsibility is a political issue," Kofinis told Cybercast News Service. "What Wal-Mart does or chooses not to do have incredible significance given its size and scope in this country."

"So when they choose as they do to do bad things not only on the workers but on the taxpayers' backs, of course it's going to become a political issue," continued Kofinis.

Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman charged that the union group is not concerned with the health benefits of Wal-Mart associates and their families, but rather with its own political agenda.

"The reality of this is that WakeUpWalmart is a special interest group that is trying to move forward its own political agenda," said Fogleman. "Wal-Mart on the other hand is offering real solutions in the area of health care by endorsing and supporting these consumer driven plans that we hope can have a positive impact on the cost of health care in this country."

Kofinis acknowledged that his group's interests are political. "Wal-Mart is expecting taxpayers to pay billions of dollars for subsidizing its health care costs and they think it's not politics?" said Kofinis. "When a corporation is irresponsible, of course it's going to be about politics."

In a press release Tuesday WakeUpWalmart.com accused Wal-Mart of eliminating all "low deductible" health care options for new employees, increasing premium costs, and charging sky high amounts for the "spousal surcharge" to "deter spouses from being insured by Wal-Mart."

Fogleman countered that despite the changes made to their policies, employees overall will pay less and get a better value.

"Because we're expanding the availability of the lowest priced options on the Value Plan (one of two new health plan options) actually many of our associates may pay less than what they're currently paying," responded Fogleman. "It allows them to get the maximum benefit of their health care dollar and leaves them with more resources to address their individual financial priorities."

Wal-Mart is offering its 1.39 million employees and their families "real solutions, not just rhetoric," the company stated.

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