An Interview With Wal-Mart Spokesman David Tovar
In the post below, I offer some analysis of Wal-Mart's letter embracing, among other controversial elements, an employer mandate in health-care reform. Earlier today, I interviewed David Tovar, a spokesman at Wal-Mart. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Why an employer mandate? I can understand Wal-Mart saying it wants nothing to do with health-care reform. And I can understand Wal-Mart saying it wants a health-care reform that gets it out of the health-care business entirely. But why stop in the middle with an employer mandate?
We understand that others may have different opinions. Others in the business community may have different opinions. But for our business, this is the right thing to do. Every associate can become eligible for health care at Wal-Mart. And we think that a mandate, coupled with this trigger mechanism and other cost-savings measures, will eliminate waste and increase competitiveness.
But to sharpen the question, why an employer mandate rather than a plan that dissolves the employer market entirely? Why should Wal-Mart or GM or Cisco be involved in the provision of health-care coverage?
Look, this is the position that we took. We wanted to be part of the solution. We wanted to lend our voices to the momentum behind reform.
In your discussions with SEIU and the Center for American Progress, did you talk about specific figures in relation to the employer mandate?
No. I think this was a road map. I think as the debate continues we'd like to be part of the conversation.
I was surprised to see Wal-Mart embrace a "trigger" to enact automatic cuts if the system isn't able to constrain costs. Tell me about how that came to pass.
CAP did a paper on it. I think they had Bob Dole and Howard Baker working on it. We reviewed that and we think the mandate makes sense coupled with that type of a trigger. We think there needs to be both. We know the status quo is not an option and the present system is not sustainable. If we're going to agree to this type of mandate, we have to have that fail-safe, which is the trigger.
What comes now? Does your CEO call up legislators and lobby for these policies? Does it change your strategy when it comes to campaigns? What's the next step?
I'm not going to get into specifics of what next tactical things we do, but we'll continue to be engaged in the dialogue and share our viewpoint.
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