Courtest of Reason:
Wal-Mart, long criticized for its health care coverage, unveiled a broad plan yesterday that is intended to cut employee costs, expand coverage and offer workers thousands of cheap prescription drugs.
Starting Jan. 1, Wal-Mart's insurance will look a lot like that offered by many other American companies, but with some twists that even longtime critics described as innovative. Independent experts praised several features of the plan and said it could represent a turning point for the retailer, the nation's largest private employer.
Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health and a former benefits consultant, called it "a very good plan," saying that "parts of it, like the $4 generics, are game-changing for the industry."
The new program, for which workers can sign up starting this month, offers 50 ways to customize coverage, with varying trade-offs like higher premiums and lower deductibles.
In one plan, for example, an employee would pay premiums up to $79 a month, receive a health care credit of $100 and pay a deductible of $500. In another, the employee would pay premiums of $8 a month, receive a $100 health care credit, but pay a deductible of $2,000. Though many generic drugs will be available for $4, brand-name drugs will cost $30 to $50.
If the proverbial alien arrived from Mars to assess our system of health care, he would be shocked to learn that it so intricately and deeply involves our employers. This artifact needs to be ended.