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THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Working the system and subsidizing big businesses

Medicaid eligibility for children in Alabama depends on family size, relationship of the people defined as a family and low income.

If Wal-Mart is red faced at leading the list of companies whose workers are eligible for Medicaid for family members 19 years old and younger, the giant retailer is only working the system.

Spokesman Dan Fogleman said the company doesn't design its health care coverage to be supplemented by public assistance.

But its employees are working the system, also. Wal-Mart offers individual and family coverage. Some 3,864 of them in Alabama apparently saw no reason to pay $153 for family coverage, if they qualified for Medicaid because of low wages.

The employees may buy coverage for themselves for as low as $38 and save the cost of family coverage.

That's smart. But are Alabama taxpayers smart to subsidize the low wages for corporate giants, or even for a mom-and-pop company that pays poor wages and has no medical coverage?

The focus of this issue shouldn't be that Wal-Mart families qualify for Medicaid, but on the necessity for business and industry to carry their part of this load.

The way out of this mess may be to make Medicaid more difficult to get. Meanwhile, spending our tax incentives to lure companies that pay such low wages that workers' families qualify for welfare makes us all look a little dumb.

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