It hasn’t been politically correct to praise Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for several years now, but with the economy tanking, more people are coming out of the closet to recognize some of the benefits, both directly and indirectly, of the retail giant.
There’s good reason for the change of mind. Counting all the various things we buy, no one saves consumers more money than Wal-Mart.
In its latest move, announced at the recent shareholders meeting, CEO Lee Scott said Wal-Mart wants to be a part of the health care debate. We surely welcome that news.
Health care continues to be a major issue in the minds and pocketbooks of all Americans. Overshadowed by the price of gasoline and the war during the presidential primary season, the issue of health care costs will soon enough raise its ugly head.
We would welcome the application of a good dose of Wal-Mart cost efficiency to health care, and that looks like what Scott is proposing.
“Regardless of who wins the election in November – and what party they are from – we stand ready to work with the new president and Congress,” Scott said. “We believe we can be an effective partner, and leaders who want to get things done will seek Wal-Mart as a partner.”
Wal-Mart may be the only company large enough to have an impact on health care costs. Although Scott didn’t disclose any specific plans, we think the presidential candidates should consider his offer.
Scott wasn’t hyperbolic when he said Wal-Mart’s generic drug program “has changed the pharmaceutical industry – and the delivery of heath care – forever.”
No doubt there remain a large number of people who will hate or fear Wal-Mart until they die, but out of the legitimate criticism of some, the company has made numerous changes and is now a much more progressive business.
But make no mistake, the bottom line is profit and keeping shareholders happy. But it has shown that The Wal-Mart Way can transform entire business sectors for the benefit of consumers. In addition to its generic drug program, Wal-Mart has begun introducing walk-in clinics for minor ailments.
Earlier this year, Scott said, “What our company does best is exactly what the U.S. health care system needs the most. It needs more affordability. It needs more accessibility. It needs to be more efficient.”
As Americans choke on gas, food and health care costs, it will take some entity like Wal-Mart – which has size and financial clout but isn’t beholden to the vested interests that get in the way of political solutions – to bring about the needed changes.