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Wal-Mart CEO calls for a 'new commitment' between government and business leaders

WASHINGTON—In a keynote speech today at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. CEO Lee Scott called for a ‘new commitment’ between government and business to solve the health care challenges facing America’s working families.  Mr. Scott’s call comes on the heels of 10 state legislatures dealing major setbacks to employer mandate bills that have been denounced nationwide by editorial pages and health care experts as ineffectual public policy.

“We need solutions that make health care more affordable and accessible.  But unfortunately, we’re not seeing enough solutions that will have an impact on that problem,” said Mr. Scott. “I make this pledge to you: I’ll travel to any state capital to talk with any governor in this room.  The only thing I ask is that we talk about real solutions to the health care challenges facing working families.”

Scott’s pledge came after he offered a preview of comprehensive improvements to Wal-Mart’s benefits that will be rolled out in the coming months.  The benefits improvements that Mr. Scott discussed include:

• Significantly reducing the waiting period for part-time associates to become eligible for company health coverage;
• Expanding the availability of the Value Plan option at $11 per month for individuals and $.30 more per day for kids to half of all associates by next year;
• Designating all children of part-time Wal-Mart associates eligible for health coverage as soon as their parent becomes eligible.  (Currently, part-time associates can only become eligible for individual coverage.)

Mr. Scott also discussed Wal-Mart’s in-store clinic pilot program and announced the company’s plan to open 50 more clinics this year.  In the Northwest, Ark. region, he said three clinics have treated 4,300 patients and administered more than 1,800 flu shots in just six months of operation.  Nearly half of all patients treated at the three clinics were uninsured, according to surveys conducted to monitor quality.

“Wal-Mart is stepping up with solutions to the health care challenges facing America’s working families,” Mr. Scott added.  “We’re making health care more affordable and accessible to our associates.  And with the clinics, we’re using our business strengths to do the same for our customers and our communities.”

During the speech, Mr. Scott described Wal-Mart as being “at the intersection of American life.”  He compared the issues that Wal-Mart deals with to those that governors deal with in their states.  Scott concluded: “We need a new commitment for America.  We need to join the great institutions of this country and commit them to solutions.  And we should start with ways to ensure healthy people in a healthy America.”