Long criticized for its lack of health benefits for employees, Wal-Mart will now to expand coverage in the hope that some of the 125,000 employees without health coverage will sign up. While the move won’t completely silence critics, it brings the company some much needed positive press. There will, rest assured, be some objections to this coverage. The plan, after all, can take a year to kick in, and comparing it to other corporations isn’t necessarily fair since many of Wal-Mart’s employees work part-time and earn less than $20,000 per year. Still, it temporarily gets the company talked about in ways to which it is not accustomed.
“On face value, this looks like a very significant change and improvement,” said Ron Pollack, president of Families USA, a health care advocacy group in Washington that has been critical of Wal-Mart.
From a corporate reputation standpoint, Wal-Mart consistently takes a beating on this front, and perhaps enough was enough. Or perhaps the PR team wanted to devote more time defending the company on other fronts. And how much credit can the groups who have long pushed for an improvement at the nation’s largest private employer claim?