LITTLE ROCK, Ark., January 11, 2008 -- Today, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) hosted the first Better Health Care Together regional discussion on national health care reform in Little Rock, Arkansas. As part of the event, held at the Clinton Presidential Library, the Better Health Care Together coalition released a report, “ Health-Cost Crossroad: Why American Businesses Urgently Need Health System Reform.” The report found that by 2012, if trends persist, the number of uninsured will climb by 7 million and the costs businesses pay for benefits will rise by 55 percent. It also included a “Spotlight on Arkansas,” highlighting reductions in obesity and increases in immunizations. However, in spite of these improvements and a promising economic outlook, the state’s overall health condition continues to decline.
Arkansas U.S. Senators Blanche Lincoln (D) and Mark Pryor (D) were in attendance and addressed the urgent need for health care reform in this country.
The event was the first of several to be held around the country this year calling for health care reform. Dr. John Agwunobi, senior vice president and president of the professional services division, Wal-Mart Stores U.S., moderated a series of panels that examined the issues facing both national and state health care reform.
"Wal-Mart is committed to high quality, affordable, accessible and secure health care for our associates and for all Americans," said Agwunobi. "Today’s discussion is another important step as we continue to work together -- business, labor, government and our communities -- to make real health care solutions available to all Americans."
The Senators discussed their views on the future of health care reform at the national level.
"Access to quality and affordable health care is out of reach for millions of American families," U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln said. "I share the vision of the Better Health Care Together coalition, including Wal-Mart, to find a common sense approach to health care reform. From my seat on the Senate Finance Committee, I am working to provide immediate relief for hard working Americans and find practical long-term solutions to our nation’s health care challenges. True health care reform will require all sectors of our society–policymakers, businesses, and individuals–to work together to ensure a healthy future for all Americans."
“Every business in America, from our largest corporations to our smallest start-ups, struggle with skyrocketing health care costs. Employees are struggling too,” stated U.S. Senator Mark Pryor. “We must come together, take the best ideas and implement them before the health care crisis in this country worsens. This conference offers such an opportunity.”
The first panel, featured Lenny Mendonca, Director, Co-Founder of Public Sector Practice, and Chairman McKinsey Global Institute, McKinsey & Co, and U.S. Senators Lincoln and Pryor.
The second panel looked specifically at Health Care Reform: A State and National Perspective. Featured on that panel were Joe Thompson MD, Arkansas Surgeon General, and Director, Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, Charles Kolb, President, Committee for Economic Development, Jay Chessir, Executive Director, Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and Jeanne Lambrew, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress.
The group discussed the “Spotlight on Arkansas” section which specifically addressed the challenges facing this state:
“Arkansas has found some success in fighting nationally and regionally declining health trends. In the past year alone, the rate of obesity dropped by 4 percent, and immunization coverage increased by 11 percent. However, in spite of these improvements and a promising economic outlook, the State’s overall health condition continues to decline. According to the United Health Foundation’s rankings of the healthiest states, Arkansas fell two spots from 46th to 48th between 2006 and 2007, ahead only of Mississippi and Louisiana. It is clear that daunting problems remain, and challenges facing employer-funded health care are rising,” stated the report.
The national portion of the report describes how the problems in the health system affect U.S. businesses; how this affects workers and families; and why reform that promotes prevention, value, shared responsibility, and coverage for all Americans is needed by 2012.
Better Health Care Together ( www.betterhealthcaretogether.org) is a unique partnership of organizations launched in February 2007 dedicated to a set of four common sense principles for achieving a new American health care system by 2012. The campaign is comprised of AT&T, the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy, the Center for American Progress, the Committee for Economic Development, the Communications Workers of America, Embarq Corporation, General Mills Inc., Intel, Kelly Services, Manpower Inc., Qwest Communications International, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
The coalition’s work centers around four principles:
• We believe every person in America must have quality, affordable health insurance coverage;
• We believe individuals have a responsibility to maintain and protect their health;
• We believe that America must dramatically improve the value it receives for every health care dollar; and,
• We believe that businesses, governments, and individuals all should contribute to managing and financing a new American health care system.
The coalition’s members are working to engage leaders at all levels -- from local communities to Washington, D.C. -- to support real and meaningful change to America’s health care system by 2012. A copy of the full report can be found at www.betterhealthcaretogether.org.