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2005-04-19
Tallahassee, Fl. Lawmaker Calls Wal-Mart “Welfare Queen.”

Watch your wallet, Wal-Mart is in town. The giant retailer has a giant appetite for subsidies, and nothing satisfies like a big fix of Medicaid health care for its "associates." This week one more welfare-to-riches study was released of Wal-Mart workers on taxpayer supported health care. According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, Wal-Mart has 12,300 employees getting Medicaid health care. That's 13% of their 92,312 employees in Florida. That high rate of Medicaid users prompted one Florida state legislator to hang the label "welfare queen" on Wal-Mart's shoulders. In an editorial published in the Tallahassee Democract, Rep. Susan Bucher (D- West Palm Beach) charged that Wal-Mart "deliberately cuts corners on employee health care, forcing a disproportionate number of its employees into state programs in order to receive health care for themselves and their families." Bucher said that, "In Florida, Wal-Mart has 91,000 employees. Every time an uninsured Wal-Mart worker goes to the ER and can't afford to pay for treatments, all Floridians are picking up the bill. Meanwhile, our Medicaid system is in crisis." She argues that Medicaid is a budget-buster in Florida, costing taxpayers more than $14 billion a year. "To the extent that Medicaid is in crisis," Rep. Bucher writes, "Wal-Mart is a significant part of the problem." Five employers in Florida account for 29,000 Medicaid-eligible individuals (employees or dependents). Wal-Mart's share represents 42% of that group. Similar statistics were researched in Georgia, where children of Wal-Mart employees made up over 10,000 of those on Georgia's health-care program for uninsured kids, the PeachCare for Kids program. Similar reports from West Virginia, Massachusetts and other states have already been reported in Newflash. Rep. Bucher claims that at a recent Wal-Mart PR fest in Arkansas, CEO Lee Scott told reporters that some Wal-Mart workers may favor Medicaid to his company's health care, because, "In some of our states, the public program may actually be a better value - with relatively high income limits to qualify, and low premiums." Bucher notes that Medicaid is a safety net program, not a substitute health care plan for a company that made $10 billion in profits last year, and can certainly afford to buy decent health care coverage for the people who made that profit possible. "Scott is admitting that Wal-Mart takes advantage of public health programs for its own competitive ends." Bucher writes. "It passes costs onto taxpayers as a business strategy - not as an unfortunate consequence of some heretofore unrealized deficiency in its health-care program... Scott acts as though public programs are a better deal for workers, when really they're simply a better deal for Wal-Mart. It's not that Wal-Mart can't afford to do better. It's that Wal-Mart chooses not to."

What you can do: For earlier stories on a similar theme, search Newsflash by "corporate welfare", or "health care".










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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