Deborah Shank had bad health insurance.

"If one class of society is obliged, in order to live, to take any price for its services, while another can abstain from such action thanks to resources at its disposal which, however, are not necessarily due to any social superiority, the second has an unjust advantage over the first at law. In other words, there cannot be rich and poor a birth without there being unjust contracts." - Emile Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society, 1893.
Deborah Shank is still getting coverage. The Morning News (of Northwest Arkansas):
Shank, a 52-year-old former stocker for Wal-Mart in Cape Girardieu, Mo., signed such a contract with her then-employer before a traffic accident with a semi-trailer truck. After receiving a settlement from the trucking company, Wal-Mart did what experts say any corporation would -- demand repayment. In this case, it happened to be slightly more than the settlement amount left after lawyer's fees and expenses — about $417,000 placed in a trust for her future care. Many health care officials have gone to bat for Wal-Mart, and any company's right to repayment under the terms of subrogation clauses, but public relations officials said there's no getting around this as a messy public relations issue. "From a public relations point of view, it's an absolute nightmare for the company," said Alan Caruba, a public relations counselor and expert on corporate and public issues for the Caruba Organization in South Orange, N.J. Wal-Mart, having previously provided an e-mailed statement about the case, declined to comment for this story.
Gee, wonder why? This is beginning to remind me of what I've always said about Wal-Mart's health insurance: It's bad. That's why Wal-Mart spends so much time bragging about the percentage of workers covered in its stores rather than teh benefits they get. Besides the subrogation clause, it's incredibly expensive. That makes this argument really infuriating:
"Today, companies have a much greater devotion to image in what we call 'the court of public opinion,'" said Sam Waltz, a counselor to businesses facing sensitive reputational issues at Sam Waltz & Associates in Wilmington, Del. "The real question is, (is) Wal-Mart's predisposition in how it handles these claims the right course or the wrong course? My impression is that Wal-Mart did what every other employer would do, which is to say, 'Excuse me, but that award is double payment, and that belongs to us,'" Waltz said. "But new social policy is set every day and this becomes a case to examine how Wal-Mart and the industry feels about such cases."
"Double payment?" Why don't people who pay premiums and stay healthy get at least some of their money back? Without this, Wal-Mart is getting paid for a service it doesn't provide. Why should they get away with that and Deborah Shank lose her legal settlement? That's where Durkheim comes in.

6 Responses to “Deborah Shank had bad health insurance.”

  1. Jeff Hess says:

    Shalom Jonathan,

    I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before, but this all makes perfect sense in the Wal-Mart health insurance universe.

    Wal-Mart’s first priority is to foster as much of its health care costs off on taxpayers. That is exactly what it has done in this case.

    Without Wal-Mart’s money grab, the public would not have had to shoulder Deborah’s health care for the rest of her life. The Shank family must now turn to public assistance and Wal-Mart waltzes away once again with the cash.

    Where are the fiscally responsible Republicans when you need one?

    B’shalom,

    Jeff

  2. UncleBob says:

    You know, without the money grab by the trucking company (Y’all find out what the name of the trucking company is yet?) that’s actually responsible for Ms. Shank’s current condition, the family would not have to go on public assistance either. Additionally, I assume we’re safe to say that Ms. Shank did not have Long-Term disability insurance either. And it’s a shame her husband hasn’t tried to better himself during this ordeal so that he could get a better job that could help pay for the future expenses (I’m assuming, again, that he didn’t have the skills needed before the accident to get a job that would pay for the expenses).

    But all this is Wal*Mart’s fault for fulfilling the terms of their insurance agreement with Ms. Shank, huh?

  3. Jeff Lang says:

    All ERISA plans have subrogation provisions. If the medical expenses are incurred as a result of a third person’s tortious conduct, the plan has the right to recover its payments from the third party.

    If the injured employee seeks to recover money from the third party wrong doer, the employee is required to pay the employer back the amount spent for medical bills. Otherwise, the employee is recovering twice for the bills, which would be unfair.

    Perhaps the Walmart case would have been more palatable had the subrogation recovery been reduced by the percentage that the actual recovery had to do with the actual value of the case.

  4. dexy says:

    I’ve heard that it wasn’t actually the trucking company’s fault– they just settled to get it over with and avoid legal fees. The woman whose car Ms. Shank was driving in pulled out in front of a truck when she wanted to make a U-turn. I’m not sure why the woman wasn’t held at fault rather than the trucking company– she probably didn’t have a lucrative liability insurance policy, I’m guessing.

    What about the lawyers who took $300,000 from the initial $1 million settlement? What about her husband who got more than $100,000 from the settlement and fixed up their house?

    I agree, Wal-Mart doesn’t care at all about the taxpayers, just their bottom line– but if too many of these cases happened, Wal-Mart employees wouldn’t be happy when their premiums went up or benefits went down.

  5. UncleBob says:

    >”I’m not sure why the woman wasn’t held at fault rather than the trucking company”

    *If* your description of what occurred was true, I’d wonder the same thing myself. I’d be interested in knowing what really happened though.

    >”What about the lawyers who took $300,000 from the initial $1 million settlement?”

    I thought it was a $7xx,xxx settlement that the lawyers took $3xx,xxx out of. Either way, I do question why it’s okay that her lawyers make out like bandits with about half (or 1/3rd) the cash and no one calls them out.

    >”What about her husband who got more than $100,000 from the settlement and fixed up their house?”

    Actually, I believe the original WSJ article mentioned that her beloved husband was filing for a divorce so they could get more money. So I’d be reluctant to call him her husband at this point.

  6. Michael says:

    There is lots of blame to go around here. Walmart for the obvious reasons. Mrs Shanks attorneys who were paid a huge amount for a inadeqate settlement. If they had done there job in the first place, they would have know that Walmart would seek to recover their payments. They should have never accepted a settlement that did not take this into consideration.

    But to suggest that Mr Shank is the bad guy here is just plain stupid!

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