Author: Abelson, Reed
Source: The New York Times
Back in the spring, amid relentless criticism that Wal-Mart Stores was failing to provide affordable health care to employees, executives at the company decided to take a detailed look at its benefits. Wal-Mart knew its health costs were spiraling upward out of control, said M. Susan Chambers, the senior executive who led the initiative, but it was surprised to discover that its critics had a point. Almost half of the children of employees were covered only by government social-service programs like Medicaid or had no insurance at all. An internal memo to the Wal-Mart board by Ms. Chambers and her colleagues, which became public this week, candidly assessed this finding and proposed steps the company might take to address it -- or at least blunt some of the criticisms it had been encountering. While Ms. Chambers was quick to emphasize in an interview that Wal-Mart was not the only company with employees who use Medicaid, she said she was startled to find out just how reliant working people have become on government health programs. ''It certainly did bring out for me the magnitude of the national problem,'' she said.