What I did last night

On Thursday, round about noon, I was invited to participate in a "mini-town hall" that was to be held on Friday evening to discuss Rosemead's Wal-Mart.  Most of the attendees were to be students from Rosemead High School, plus a smaller number from San Gabriel and other area high schools.  The other folks on the panel included Mike Lewis (needs no introduction), Zack Coauser (I may have that mispelled, a visiting professor from Claremont and author of a very Wal-Mart friendly manuscript on how Wal-Mart fits into the big picture of retail in US--I haven't read it yet, but I plan to), and Joe Vasquez (an English teacher at Rosemead High school, and son of the former councilman).  Matt Wells, from the Los Angeles Times's editorial pages, moderated.


I didn't have time to do any sort of refresher research on why I hate Wal-Mart (and I still haven't done that refresher research), so I don't think I was at my best last night.  But there were few lines that were spoken that I wish I had the opportunity to follow up on.


Coauser--"82% of Wal-Mart employees are covered by health insurance."

     If I had the opportunity, I would have asked the students to parse that phrase:  He's not saying that 82% of Wal-Mart employees are covered by Wal-Mart health insurance.  He's saying 82% have health insurance.  I'd have to double check the Chambers memo. . .


. . . but I think I'd discover that that less than half of Wal-Mart's employees have Wal-Mart insurance.  So most of that "covered by health insurance" consists of Wal-Mart employees who need to rely upon the generosity of employers OTHER than Wal-Mart, who offer affordable health coverage to the spouses and families of THEIR employees.  I think I'd also discover that Wal-Mart employees utilize Medicaid (Medi-Cal, in California) at a rate 50% higher than that utilized by employees of other national employers.


As I did note last night, Wal-Mart doesn't really offer health benefits in the usual sense of the word. With its $1000/person deductables, Wal-Mart's plans are really only catastrophic health insurance.  Coauser says that's what health insurance should be all about.  I'd say that's a value judgement.  Is health insurance supposed to help keep you healthy, or is it supposed to wait until you've suffered a catastrophic, life-threatening, financially disastrous illness before kicking in?  The whole idea behind an HMO, after all, was supposed to be to do the former and not the latter.  So I'd say that most of the nation's employers subscribe to the former concept and not the latter.


Lewis--"That earthquake fault also runs under the adjacent building and under the elementary school, but I don't see anyone screaming about that."

     The difference is that both of those structures were built before we knew about the Whittier fault.  Besides which, the Panda Express building suffered millions of dollars of damage in the 1987 earthquake and was virtually empty for years afterwards.  It was not until extensive retrofitting of the building was complete that anyone was willing to move into the structure.  And schools already need to meet higher earthquake survivial standards than normal buildings.  The buildings of Rice School have already demonstrated they can survive an earthquake, and I suspect they, too, were reinforced in the years since 1987.  By contrast, I haven't seen any evidence that Wal-Mart's Rosemead store incorporates any special reinforcement to withstand the increased danger it faces for being located immediately adjacent to an earthquake fault.


Wal-Mart's allegedly $4 generic prescription offerings also came up last night, but there's already a post linking to the newspaper article I referenced.


At any rate, I just thought I'd post these "I wish I had the chance to rebut those claims" comments here, just in case any of those RHS students happen to be continuing their study of Wal-Mart in Rosemead.