12 February 2007

Wal-Mart & the SEIU hold hands

Now Wal-Mart and the SEIU have joined together in a coalition for universal healthcare.

Somehow I trust this odd couple more than Families USA and Heritage Foundation. That’s even though I'm proud to still be able to say I’ve never shopped at Wal-Mart.

Nina Owrcharenko of the Heritage Foundation and Kathleen Stoll of Families USA spoke to Colorado’s Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform a couple weeks ago, explaining “how can strongly held ideological differences be bridged in order to produce consensus on a comprehensive reform plan.”

The answer? It's actually pretty obvious. You just give everyone more of the same. Expand current programs (until the next round of budget cuts) and expand tax credits.

Now there’s a sustainable solution.

Next question: What industry has even more hard-to-remember acronyms than the military? Right. Healthcare policy. So even though the Families USA plan is actually the Health Coverage Coalition for the Uninsured’s plan, and is signed on to by 16 major groups — including Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente, Pfizer and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — let’s just call it the Families USA plan. Or the Give Everyone More Plan.

The Wal-Mart/SEIU plan (aka the Businesses Can't Do It All Plan) also includes other heavy hitters: AT&T, the Communication Workers of America, Intel, Kelly Services, the Center for American Progress,

Other unions’ leaders have criticized Service Employees International Union’s president, Andy Stern, for holding hands with Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott.

They’ve got a good point. Here’s Press Associates take on Walmart: "...the nation's largest private employer--is known for its expensive health care coverage, skimpy wages, labor law-breaking, mistreatment of workers and the fact that it forces 46 percent of its workers and their families into publicly paid health care programs."

(Now you won’t read that in the “mainstream liberal media.” Not a lot of union coverage there. Hmmm...)

Then again, Jeanne Lambrew (of the Center for American Progress) also has a good point, here with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!: “Lee Scott said himself in the discussions the other day, he is the head of the largest company in the world, yet this problem is bigger than Wal-Mart.”

Goodman quotes Wal-Mart critics: ““If Wal-Mart is truly serious about universal healthcare, we challenge it to provide universal healthcare to all of its uninsured employees and make universal healthcare a litmus test for its political contributions. We await their answer.”

Lambrew replied that “we, in the US, are fairly unique, in that we have this expectation that goes back decades that our employers will do what government has failed to do, which is to provide affordable access to health benefits. The truth is, the unions -- AFL, SEIU before, when it was part of it -- were really instrumental in making that happen. …. So employers should do the best they can for their employees, and it's a necessary part of the system, but it's not sufficient. We need to kind of build on what we have today, but also create new systems for the people who can't access employer-based coverage.”

As incoherent as that was, this plan is easier to like than the Families USA plan. Sure that's at least partly because there aren’t any specifics out on the Wal-Mart/SEIU plan. Just this statement:
America's health care system is broken. The traditional employer-based model of coverage in its current form is endangered without substantial reform to our health care system. It is being crushed by out of control costs, the pressures of the global economy , and the large and growing number of uninsured. Soaring health costs threaten workers' livelihoods and companies' competitiveness, and undermine the security that individuals of a prosperous nation should enjoy. We can only solve these problems – and deliver health care that is high quality, affordable, accessible and secure – if business, government, labor, the health care delivery system and the nonprofit sector work together.
And these four principles:
1. We believe every person in America must have quality, affordable health insurance coverage;

2. We believe individuals have a responsibility to maintain and protect their health;

3. We believe that America must dramatically improve the value it receives for every health care dollar; and,

4. We believe that businesses, governments, and individuals all should contribute to managing and financing a new American health care system.
That’s not bad.

Especially with Stern saying, "We can't keep tinkering, hoping that incremental change will fix our broken health care system. We need fundamental change, and it is going to take new thinking, leadership, new partnerships, some risk taking, and compromising to make it happen. But that is what we all owe our country."

That's actually far better than Lambrew's "We need to kind of build on what we have today, but also create new systems for the people who can't access employer-based coverage."

Send her back to D.C. with Stoll, where Owrcharenko can tutor the two on Ivory Think Tank rationals for allowing the insurance industry to continue to wreak havoc on us all.

Which side are you on, girls? Which side are you on?

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