The AFL-CIO released this past week a 16 page study of the public subsidies that state and federal taxpayers provide to the private retailer, Wal-Mart, to pay for Medicaid health insurance for the company’s employees. According to the report, “The Wal-Mart Tax: Shifting Health Care Costs to Taxpayers,” there are now 23 states reporting publicly on the extent to which employers’ workers utilize public health care programs to secure coverage for themselves or their families. As of 2005, Wal-Mart was America’s largest employer, with 1.39 million workers. “Wal-Mart’s refusal to pay decent wages and provide affordable health insurance to its workers puts it atop the list in at least 19 of the 23 states surveyed here. This abuse of poverty health care
programs means Wal-Mart is directly contributing to the nation’s Medicaid crisis,” the AFL-CIO says. “That Wal-Mart should play such a prominent role in the Medicaid crisis is unjustifiable by any measure. The company rakes in profits at the rate of more than $21,000 per minute; its 2005 profits were $11.2 billion. The 2005 compensation package for Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott was more than $17.5 million. Five members of the Walton family — all are major company stockholders — have a combined net worth exceeding $90 billion, putting all five on the list of the 10 wealthiest Americans.” The union reports that in a November 2005 poll by the national polling firm Lake Research Partners, 83% of U.S. voters said they support rules to require big, profitable companies to provide health insurance for their workers or to pay into a health care fund to cover them. The AFL-CIO notes that some of America’s largest companies, like Wal-Mart, “are pushing state budgets and services past their breaking points, forcing states to cut Medicaid benefits and eligibility.” The report profiles health care spending on Wal-Mart employees in 23 separate states.
For earlier studies on this topic, search the Newsflash page by “health care.” For a copy of the AFL-CIO “Wal Mart Tax” report, go to: www.aflcio.org/corporatewatch.walmart/.upload/walmartreport_031406,pdf