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Wal-Mart Runs Health Care Spots

Wal-Mart ads running in Beltway supporting Obama health care initiative.

A still from the campaign.

WASHINGTON — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., continuing to burnish its image as a leader in the business community on health care reform, has launched a TV advertising campaign running in the nation’s capital.

The retail giant recently caused a rift in the industry, specifically the National Retail Federation, when it endorsed a controversial employer mandate provision in health reform legislation being drafted on Capitol Hill. But Wal-Mart has scored points with President Obama, longtime critics, neutral observers and even some labor groups for endorsing employer mandates in conjunction with the Service Employees International Union and the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

Wal-Mart covers 51.8 percent of its 1.4 million U.S. employees with health care benefits, according to a spokesman. He said 5.5 percent of the company’s workforce is uninsured, while 94.5 percent of its U.S. employee base has some type of health care insurance either from the retailer or elsewhere.

“We’re running a few ads within the Beltway only,” throughout this month, the Wal-Mart spokesman said.

He did not respond to questions about the cost of the ads or how long they will air.

In a link to the ad, provided by a Wal-Mart critic and watchdog group, WakeUpWalMart.com, the company says it is “proud” to report that 94 percent of its full-time and part-time employees have some type of health care coverage.

“But we won’t be 100 percent satisfied until every American has quality and affordable health care coverage,” a narrator says during the ad as numbers and words roll on the screen.

WakeUpWalMart.com is planning to challenge the company’s new role in the health care debate, as well as its health care record, in a series of events beginning Aug. 10, according to a spokeswoman.

“We’ve got Wal-Mart associates who have been with the company 15 to 20 years who say they simply can’t afford [the company’s] premiums,” the watchdog’s spokeswoman said. “We are trying to draw attention to the fact that Wal-Mart is not as pro-reform as they would like people to believe.”

She said the group plans to hold a series of events around the country during the week of Aug. 10 under its Wal-Mart Workers for Change group, and in conjunction with local unions and Health Care America Now, at several Wal-Mart stores and in key Congressional districts.