With Friends Like These: Wal-Mart, Health 'Reform' and Obama's 'Public Option'

you need to really know about the Obama health "reform" initiative
is that it is being supported by retail giant Wal-Mart.

you need to really know about the Obama health "reform" initiative
is that it is being supported by retail giant Wal-Mart.

a corporation that was built on the philosophy of treating workers like
dirt (the company famously locks its employees inside its buildings
at night, forces workers who have checked out of their shifts to continue
to serve customers, off the clock, if they are asked for help on their
way out of the store, has bitterly resisted offering any health benefits,
and has one of the worst records of labor law violations of any company
in the country), is now signing on as an endorser of the Obama health
reform effort, saying:

believe now is the time for action on this vital issue. We commend the
leadership of elected officials who are committed to enactment of reform,
and we appreciate the commitment to inclusion and transparency which
has been present thus far.

"We are entering a critical time
during which all of us who will be asked to pay for health care reform
will have to make a choice on whether to support the legislation. This
choice will require employers to consider the trade off of agreeing
to a coverage mandate and additional taxes versus the promise of reduced
health care cost increases."

would a company like Wal-Mart, with its Paleolithic attitude towards
its own workers, be supporting a plan that, at least ostensibly, claims
to be trying to provide health coverage for the working poor?

are several answers. First of all, from a competitive point of view,
Wal-Mart probably figures that if there is an employer mandate to provide
health benefits, with a hefty fine for those that refuse to comply,
the company is in a better position to provide a minimal plan than many
of its competitors, like K-Mart or Target. Second, the company's
executives may figure that the so-called "public option" will offer
it a cheaper alternative, subsidized by the taxpayer, than existing
private insurance plans. This is one valid point of attack from the
right on the Obama plan: that a government-run alternative to private
insurance would end up being a dumping ground for companies that didn't
want to pay for private insurance coverage plans for their workers.

Wal-Mart probably figures that the Obama plan is the best way to avoid
a move to a single-payer system ala Canada's, which inevitably would
be heavily financed by corporate taxes.

are few giant corporations in America that are worse than Wal-Mart when
it comes to employee relations and treatment of workers, so when you
see a company like that coming out in support of any government program--particularly
one that is as critically important to the lives of ordinary working
people as health care--you should immediately question the value and
the intent of that plan.

same point can be made about the so called "savings" being offered
by various segments of the medical-industrial complex in deals being
struck with and touted by the White House (the pharmaceutical industry
has promised to cut drug costs to the government and the public by $80
billion over 10 years, while the hospital industry has agreed to offer
savings of another $150 billion over the same period). While these
so-called savings are mostly bogus sleight-of-hands (for example, much
of the "savings" being offered by the hospital industry consists
of reduced government compensation for the treatment of the uninsured
in emergency rooms, but of course, if the Obama plan is passed, and
insurance coverage is offered to most Americans, there would be far
fewer uninsured patients in hospitals anyway), the real reason these
big industry sectors are coming on board the Obama plan is that they
see it as a way to avoid, or push off to the future, a single-payer
system that would dictate all their fees and prices.

point is, if the very groups that have created the massively expensive
and exclusionary health care system that we have today in America, and
that for years have bitterly resisted any efforts to seriously reform
it and to make it open to all, regardless of income or medical condition,
are suddenly endorsing a plan that purports to be a real, progressive
reform, we have to question the premise: that the reform really is real
or progressive.

the plan being promoted by President Obama and by the Democrats in Congress
is not real or progressive. It is a plan that will further enrich the
health care industry, that will not stop the continuing rise in health
care costs, that will still leave millions of people without access
to quality medical care, and that will end up costing taxpayers more
than they are already paying.

proof is the support for this plan being offered by the likes of Wal-Mart
and the big medical industry players.

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