Wal-Mart’s chief executive told America’s governors Sunday that he needed their help to make healthcare more affordable and accessible for the retail giant’s 1.3 million U.S. employees because the company couldn’t do it alone.
Lee Scott said Wal-Mart’s healthcare costs had risen 19% in each of the last three years and that it was a matter of time before it, and other businesses, would not be able to sustain rising costs.
“We know our benefits at Wal-Mart stores are not perfect,” Scott told the National Governors Assn. “Do we want more of our associates’ kids on our health plans? Of course we do.”
Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., has been the target of criticism from watchdog groups and organized labor for what they say are costly and inaccessible health plans. In response, Wal-Mart last fall offered a new lower-premium plan. The company announced last week that it was expanding that effort.
Scott said the plan of $11 a month, now available in some areas, would be accessible to half of the company’s employees within the next year. He also said children of part-time Wal-Mart employees would be eligible for coverage as soon as their parent was, and that the company planned to increase to about 50 the number of in-store clinics.
He said improving the company’s wellness program -- encouraging employees to eat right and take care of their bodies -- was its biggest challenge.
Scott criticized measures filed in at least 22 states that would force the retailer to spend more on healthcare. “I believe what we’re seeing is a little too much politics,” he said.