Saturday, August 05, 2006

how to get to universal health care

A truly astounding piece profiling Andrew Stern of Wal-MartWatch was printed in the June issue of the Atlantic Monthly. You may know Walmart Watch from their efforts to unionize Wal-Mart and pass Fair Share legislation in various states: laws that target large employees and basically force them to raise their level of health coverage. All worthy causes to be sure, but what captured my imagination was Stern's vision for how the USA (finally) might attain universal health coverage:
Spending around $5 million annually, Wal-Mart Watch has pushed anti-Wal-Mart laws in dozens of states, leaked damaging internal documents, and helped make the company known as much for its exploitation of government health plans as for its business acumen. Over the last year, and very much against its will, Wal-Mart has been moved to the center of the national debate over health care, and Stern has drawn one step closer to what he’s really after.

Stern has something much grander in mind even than unionizing Wal-Mart. “Ford wasn’t created to be a health-care provider; it was created to produce cars,” Stern says. “My goal is to get Wal-Mart’s leadership out there in traffic and holler, ‘We can no longer compete in the global economy when health care is factored into the cost of our products.’ If Wal-Mart’s CEO, Lee Scott, were to come out and say, ‘We need a national health-care system that works for everyone,’ then it’s a whole new ball game.”

In Stern’s thinking, if the world’s largest company could be coaxed or bullied into publicly favoring a national health-care policy, here’s how things might play out: a rush of other companies already beset by health-care costs and accustomed to mimicking Wal-Mart would fall in line, putting business on the same side as labor. Governors burdened with soaring Medicaid costs might also join in. The pressure on the federal government would be overwhelming. Stern, in other words, is seeking to turn the Wal-Mart effect to his own ends, harnessing it to transform health-care policy just as it routinely transforms business policy. It’s an audacious plan…
Read a more complete excerpt here.


  • At 9:14 AM, Blogger jon manyjars said…

    That's a fascinating idea, and it would definitely take the debate over universal health care to another level. As it stands, private companies large and small have shifted the burden of health care coverage for the working poor from the private sector to the public sector. As taxpayers, we all end up paying for the uninsured and the underinsured ANYWAY, so let's acknowledge that and make the system more cost-effective. Hey, welcome back to the bloggasphere! Congratulations on the wedding and the baby.

  • At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Daniel Haszard said…

    Well said,i applaud your blog, mental health consumers are the least capable of self advocacy,my doctors made me take zyprexa for 4 years which was ineffective for my symptoms.I now have a victims support page against Eli Lilly for it's Zyprexa product causing my diabetes.--Daniel Haszard


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