Chambers' memo proposes a number of ways that Wal-Mart could hold down spending on health care and benefits while minimizing damage to its reputation. Those proposals include nine "limited-risk initiatives" and five "bold steps."
The initiatives include increasing the number of part-time employees while making it easier for part-time employees to become eligible for benefits and offering a variety of benefits from which employees may choose.
Chambers also mentioned a plan already under way to add health clinics to stores.
The "bold steps" called for Wal-Mart to institute "consumer-driven health plans" with Health Savings Accounts that would go toward paying higher deductibles; restructuring the retirement program to put more money into health care and less into retirement; redesigning employment at Wal-Mart "to attract a healthier, more productive workforce"; making strategic investments to counter criticism; and improving communications about the company's benefits offering.
This is the only stock I own. I am critical of the company, but I couldn't justify its stock price hitting a 5-year low. I think the "big box" mentality is here to stay, and I don't think it's particularly evil. What I do not accept is when the company breaks labor laws, and the way they lean on government social services. So in many ways I'm pleased by this development. Health clinics seem like a reasonable and sensible addition to their huge store layouts. Health savings accounts are going to be a very popular offering, and the company is leading this trend. Hiring healthier workers is a tricky question, but if you're going to offer medical insurance, you enter into the issue of controlling costs. They will also be motivated to encourage healthy lifestyles, and as the nation's largest non-union employer, that impacts many people. I'm not sure what the part-time issue is... probably related to dodging legal issues around benefits. I think restructuring to fund an HSA instead of a 401(K) makes sense because in the end the HSA is more valuable to everyone.