Friday, February 24, 2006

Real Change or PR Move?

The title of an LA Times article reads, "Wal-Mart Says It Will Boost Health Benefits". It sounds good, right? Maybe Wal-Mart is finally caving in to all the recent pressure regarding health care spending on its employees. So how is it boosting health care?

First, it is going to decrease the current two year waiting period after which employees can buy cheap health insurance from the company. Wal-Mart hasn't said what the new wait period will be though (one year and 11 months?).

Also, Wal-Mart plans to expand its pilot program offering health clinics at the store for its employees. The company will now offer the clinics at 50 sites (Wal-Mart has 3,850 domestic locations). None of this is too encouraging.

Then there is this from the LA Times:

A company memo leaked just after Scott's pledge outlined stark recommendations for reining in healthcare costs, such as making jobs more physically rigorous to discourage unhealthy workers and using more part-time workers.

The memo also recommended boosting the company's image by touting initiatives such as the ones Scott plans to highlight Sunday.

Wal-Mart has said that the memo was a preliminary document and not a final list of proposals.

It looks as if the only thing Wal-Mart has learned from the negative publicity is that they need to do more misleading PR campaigns. Although I disagree with the legislation that was passed in Maryland (similar legislation is being proposed in other states like California), I can see why they are popular.