Nearly 100% of Wal-Mart’s staff is covered by health insurance, either through the company itself or through another source. Covered “associates” reached a total of 94.5% this month, compared with 92.7% last year.
 
The total proportion of Wal-Mart employees covered by Wal-Mart’s plans at the end of open enrollment was 51.8%. Uninsured Wal-Mart employees fell to 5.5%, a 40% drop from 2007 to 2009.
 
The most recently gauged national uninsured rate for employed Americans was 16.8%.
 
Wal-Mart’s role in health care is growing both in terms of its approach to employee health benefits within the company, and its product/service offerings to consumers. A new product/service hybrid hit the store’s health and beauty category last month in the form of a smoking cessation program that costs just $9 for a starter pack of the generic equivalent of Zyban (bupropioin ER 150mg) for a 10-day supply. This was a feature of Wal-Mart’s Healthy Living program announced in January 2009.  The service aspect of the product is a link to the American Cancer Society Quitline. Wal-Mart’s smoking cessation product is featured at its website, www.Walmart.com/stopsmoking. The smoking cessation products are located in 3,000 Wal-Mart stores’ tobacco areas.
 
Health Populi’s Hot Points: Beyond its core retailing business, Wal-Mart’s becoming something of a universal health insurance advocate. This month, the company launched its Better Health Care Together campaign along with other organizations in both the private and public sectors — including unions, which for a time weren’t Wal-Mart’s closest ally. Partners include AT&T, Baker Center, Center for American Progress, CED, CWA, Intel, Kelly Services, and the SEIU. The principles of the group include every person in America having health insurance coverage, personal responsibility for health promotion and disease prevention, receiving value-for-money in health care, and financing health care jointly between business, governments and individuals.
 
 

Importantly to note, though, is that the Divided We Fail campaign may be unraveling so the effort may have to change its name since the parties are beginning to disagree on some fine points of reforms.
There remains nearly universal agreement that health care is broken. The 4 principles articulated by the Better Health Care Together campaign are generally seen as non-contentious by most health stakeholders that cross party affiliations and business interests.
With the stimulus bill and financial services reforms queued up in Washington, health reform still feels like a hurry-up-and-wait moment. As today’s Washington Post writes, “HHS vacancy stalls health agenda.” In the meantime, we can count on Wal-Mart’s efforts in the private sector to continue as the company grows its role in health. 

 

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