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Lobbyist Money Help  

Wal-Mart employees some of the hardest hit by Gov. Blunt's proposed Medicaid cuts

February 04, 2005
By: Nicole Volhontseff
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The rollback happy face at Wal-Mart may soon not be smiling.

Wal-Mart employees will be some of those most affected by Gov. Blunt's proposed plan to cut Medicaid. That's because once they lose Medicaid they would not have any other source of affordable health coverage to turn to, not even the one their employer offers.

According to the National Organization for Women website, women working as "sales associates" at Wal-Mart earn on average $6.10 an hour, or $12,688 per year if permitted to work full time. This places many of their families below the poverty level. Blunt's plan to cut Medicaid for people who are up to thirty percent below the federal poverty line would include the Wal-Mart employees.

"Absolutely they would," said Sharon Feltman of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare. "A single mother with one kid would be cut."

The health care plan that Wal-Mart offers its employees costs bi-weekly $17.50 for an individual and $70.50 for family coverage. At $6.10 an hour, the average employee working full time makes $976 a month before taxes. Paying for a family's health care would reduce that paycheck to $835 a month. Feltman says it would be nearly impossible for a family to live on such a small amount of money.

Wal-Mart's health care coverage also takes some time to receive. All full-time employees are eligible for the plan after ninety days but part-time associates aren't eligible until after they have worked at Wal-Mart for two years.

"If you stay long enough, basically everyone is eligible," said Lisa Biggs, assistant manager at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Jefferson City.

The Missouri Hospital Association estimates that uninsured individuals who lose Medicaid under the governor's plan will prolong seeking medical attention, which may gravely compensate their health. Biggs says Wal-Mart has a program called Associate in Critical Need Trust Fund. Wal-Mart managers across the country have the option of donating part of their paychecks to the fund. When an employee is in a serious situation the company can draw from that fund, and Biggs says this program is what will most likely be used to help uninsured employees who become sick.

43,339 people work at Wal-Marts throughout Missouri. It is unknown how many of them are currently receiving Medicaid.