The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Walmart Pushes Workers onto Medicaid as Obamacare Architect Goes to Big Pharma -- and the Blogger who Predicted Both


MARCY WHEELER [email], @emptywheel

The Huffington Post recently reported in "Walmart's New Health Care Policy Shifts Burden To Medicaid, Obamacare" that "Walmart, the nation's largest private employer, plans to begin denying health insurance to newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, according to a copy of the company's policy obtained by The Huffington Post. ... 'Walmart is effectively shifting the costs of paying for its employees onto the federal government with this new plan, which is one of the problems with the way the law is structured,' said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley." -- just wrote the piece "Walmart Takes Advantage of Health 'Reform' It Championed," which states: "What HuffPo doesn't mention in its piece on this, though, is that this is all presumably by design. Walmart, after all, was one of the partners behind the push for Obamacare. In fact, as things started to drag in summer 2009, Walmart partnered with Center for American Progress and SEIU to try to nudge the process along."

Wheeler wrote in 2009: "The one way -- just about the only way -- a large employer can dodge responsibility for paying something for its employees is if its employees happen to qualify for Medicaid.

"If Walmart wanted to avoid paying anything for its employees [under "Obamacare"], it could simply make sure that none of them made more than $14,403 a year (they'd have to do this by ensuring their employees worked fewer than 40 hours a week, since this works out to be slightly less than minimum wage). Or, a single mom with two kids could make $24,352 -- a whopping $11.71 an hour, working full time. That's more than the average Wal-Mart employee made last year. So long as Walmart made sure its employees applied for Medicaid (something it already does in states where its employees are eligible), it would pay nothing. Nada, zip. Nothing."

Wheeler similarly highlighted the revolving door aspects of who was behind the legislation at the time. Glenn Greenwald just wrote the piece "Obamacare Architect leaves White House for Pharmaceutical Industry Job," noting "Few people embody the corporatist revolving door greasing Washington as purely as Elizabeth Fowler. ... When the legislation that became known as 'Obamacare' was first drafted, the key legislator was the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, whose committee took the lead in drafting the legislation. As Baucus himself repeatedly boasted, the architect of that legislation was Elizabeth Folwer, his chief health policy counsel; indeed, as Marcy Wheeler discovered, it was Fowler who actually drafted it. As Politico put it at the time: 'If you drew an organizational chart of major players in the Senate health care negotiations, Fowler would be the chief operating officer.'

"What was most amazing about all of that was that, before joining Baucus' office as the point person for the health care bill, Fowler was the Vice President for Public Policy and External Affairs (i.e. informal lobbying) at WellPoint, the nation's largest health insurance provider."

On Tuesday, Politico reported Fowler now "is leaving the White House for a senior-level position leading 'global health policy' at Johnson & Johnson's government affairs and policy group."

Wheeler wrote a series of pieces in 2009, highlighting the revolving door: "to the extent that Liz Fowler is the author of this document, we might as well consider WellPoint its author as well."

Note: Yesterday, Max Baucus and the Center for American Progress participated in a "Fix the Debt" event organized by Peter Peterson, who has long demonized Social Security.

A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.