Saturday, July 09, 2005


Odds and ends

The Mouth apologizes for his three day absence. The Mouth's erudite charm was focused on entertaining houseguests and not this blog. The Mouth shall now turn his attention back on you, the kind reader.

Yet another reason to hate Wal-Mart
We have known for some time about Wal-Mart's practice of posting fliers in employee lounges giving instructions on how to sign up for Medicaid, an obvious maneuver to shift the company's employee benefit expenditures onto us taxpayers. This morning, an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that more than 10,000 Wal-Mart employees in Tennessee and 12,300 in Florida are on the Medicaid rolls. We don't know how many Wal-Mart workers receive Medicaid in Missouri or how much this is costing us American taxpayers because not every state collects data on how many employees of large corporations receive Medicaid.

A bill before Congress, the Health Care Accountability Act, would require states to collect and publish the number of Americans who receive Medicaid yet work for large corporations who have the resources to provide benefits. The Post-Dispatch editorial reports that fewer than half of all Wal-Mart employees are enrolled in the company's health plan. Wal-Mart requires that full-time emplyees work for six months to be eligible for benefits, as opposed to the customary three months, and that part-time employees must work for two years. Part-timers also can never enroll family members on the company's health plan.

Certainly no law exists that any company provide health insurance to employees, but Wal-Mart's health care stinginess puts the company at a strategic advantage over competitors (mainly unionized supermarkets) who provide their employees with fair access to benefits. What kind of messge are these competitors getting from Wal-Mart? Screw the worker and win the free enterprise game? If so, how long can any of us expect to receive affordable and viable health care from your employer?

Seems that the Health Care Accountability Act would at least provide a platform to launch and focus dialogue on what to do with health care. It seems that corporate America has as much interest as anyone in doing something about this problem. But don't expect the bill to go anywhere. Its sponsors are all Democrats, and Republicans frankly don't seem interested in doing anything about widening accessibility to the quality healthcare all of us rightfully expect.

As for Wal-Mart's eagerness to lower costs by directing its workers toward Medicaid, the Post-Dispatch put it best: "Customers may be getting bargains at Wal-Mart. But they're paying for it on April 15."

Speaking of healthcare
We've heard about all these doctors who are forced to pay high premiums on their malpractice insurance, a problem often blamed on ambulance-chasing attorneys. Many physicians are forced to move to more judicially friendly climates to practice medicine while others have to drop specialties like obstetrics and rule out certain procedures. It's no doubt a real problem and a valid concern for the doctors and for us, the patients.

However, we learned last week that at least here in Missouri, doctors are being gouged by the malpractice insurers themselves. A study from a former state insurance director, Jay Angoff, and commissioned by the American Center for Justice and Democracy finds that malpractice premiums in Missouri have risen by 120 percent while claims payouts have risen by 5 percent. Insurers hiked their premiums even as projections indicated that in the future, payouts would be decreasing. The report goes on to note egregious examples of gouging from many individual insurers.

I have no love for sleazy trial attorneys, and I fully support the idea of capping medical malpractice awards. But do you think we should also do something about sleazy insurance companies? Hmmm. Just a thought.

Read the report in PDF form:
Or read about it in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Quote of the Day
"The religious left . . . hates and despises the God of Christianity."
-Rush Limbaugh, who also asserted that liberals are "soulless" because "souls come from God."

Hmm...well, if this is an accurate quote, (and, I actually doubt that it is, since Rush seldom discusses anything concerning religion) I'll have to disagree with Rush. Although, while there are Christians on the left, it is a comfortable HOME of those who despise Jesus Christ.
I hope walmart will work to provide great health insurance for all employees as it is important to many.
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