Friday, March 28, 2008

Wal-Mart Behaving Badly

It’s pretty sad when the fine print of your health plan says your employer can recoup what they’ve paid out when you got sick or injured. Seriously, what’s the point of a health insurance plan then? If I’m going to pay for it myself anyway? This is a benefit?

That appears to be the raw deal offered by Wal-Mart’s glorious employee health plan:
Two years after the accident, Shank and her husband, Jim, were awarded about $1 million in a lawsuit against the trucking company involved in the crash. After legal fees were paid, $417,000 was placed in a trust to pay for Debbie Shank's long-term care.

Wal-Mart had paid out about $470,000 for Shank's medical expenses and later sued for the same amount. However, the court ruled it can only recoup what is left in the family's trust.

The Shanks didn't notice in the fine print of Wal-Mart's health plan policy that the company has the right to recoup medical expenses if an employee collects damages in a lawsuit.

This makes no sense. The whole point of awarding damages in a lawsuit is to compensate the victim for their loss of earning potential and pay for their care. Debbie Shank is brain damaged, in a wheelchair, and lives in a nursing home. Her husband works two jobs and has prostate cancer; who is going to pay for her long-term care? That was the point of seeking damages in a lawsuit, after all: to collect from the one who did wrong, to compensate the injured party.

The Shanks lost their suit to Wal-Mart. Last summer, the couple appealed the ruling -- but also lost it. One week later, their son was killed in Iraq.

"They are quite within their rights. But I just wonder if they need it that bad," Jim Shank said.

In 2007, the retail giant reported net sales in the third quarter of $90 billion.

Conservatives piss and moan about the urgent need for “tort reform” and the need to cap the amount of awards received. But should employers be the ones to get that money? Long-term nursing home care ain’t cheap, and I wonder why Wal-Mart needs that money since their net income for the quarter ending Jan. 31 hit $4 billion.

$4 billion net income for just one quarter. Debbie Shank helped them earn their profits, in a small way, by working for them as a stocker. How nice of Wal-Mart to show their appreciation by taking the money awarded to pay for her nursing home care.

So much for "Save money. Live better."