Why do companies get away with this kind of crap?

While the national headlines focus on efforts across the country to force Wal-Mart to pay more for its workers’ health insurance, an obscure story in Missouri reveals just how “sick” Wal-Mart’s health care policies can be. The story involves a former Wal-Mart worker who received some medical care benefits from Wal-Mart, but now the retailer, which made billion in profits last year, is suing the disabled worker to get the company’s money back. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, last June Wal-Mart decided to sue Debbie Shank, who stocked shelves at night at a Wal-Mart in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, so she could spend the days with her three kids. Debbie was in her minivan in 2000 when she was hit by a truck. She suffered severe brain stem damage, and has been left totally disabled. After the accident, her Wal-Mart health insurance paid for her medical care. But when Debbie sued the trucking company, and won a financial settlement of roughly 0,000, Wal-Mart decided it wanted Debbie to pay Wal-Mart back. But Debbie’s husband says the money they received from the lawsuit has been used to set up a trust fund to help pay for Debbie’s care, since she now requires expensive nursing home care. Wal-Mart says it has a legal right to try to recoup its medical expenses from Shank, once she won her lawsuit. "This is a very sad case, and I think many people naturally have an emotional and sympathetic reaction," a Wal-Mart spokeswoman told the Post-Dispatch. "But the reality is that we are required to protect the assets of our health plan so that it can pay the future claims of other associates and their family members. Unfortunately, it’s just not feasible to start making individual exceptions.” But Wal-Mart knows that to the public, it will appear that they are trying to get money from a disabled woman, her three children, and her husband. Shank is confined to a nursing home, and will not work again, and cannot financially help her family out by working nights at Wal-Mart. So Wal-Mart is worried that its lawsuit against a disabled woman will not seem right. “Not everyone will understand this,” the company spokesman admitted, “and I’m sure that we will get a fair amount of criticism." Debbie Shank’s lawyer said, “If somebody got some money from a lawsuit and used it to buy a new home they didn’t need or a European vacation … that’s one thing. But that’s not the situation we’re dealing with here. In view of the unfavorable publicity that Wal-Mart is getting around the country …I’m surprised they’re pursuing this against their former employee, particularly since she remains so devastated and so in need of these funds." Shank’s husband, Jim, says his wife is still so mentally confused that she can’t always identify which son she is talking to, and that she is wheelchair bound, and, due to her brain stem injury, can only move one arm and two fingers. The Shank family got around 7,477 from the lawsuit, and that money was put into a trust to pay for Shank’s future medical bills, which will be very substantial. But Wal-Mart wants to get their medical expenses back, so they can deposit them in the company’s Health and Welfare Plan. Shank says that if his wife loses her case to Wal-Mart, she will lose more than money. She will lose her private room at the nursing home, her wheelchair-accessible van and the personal care worker who helps her with her activities of daily living. Jim Shank has health insurance, which pays for some of his wife’s on-going medical bills. Shank works at several jobs to make ends meet, including real estate sales, and work at a local department store.

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10 Responses to “Why do companies get away with this kind of crap?”

  1. PIERRE Says:

    They get away with it because of crroked lawyers, and a justice system that favorsthe rich. Also, government regulations are very lax, while the legislators award themselves goldplated health care and pension plans. It has been this way forever.

  2. Josh H Says:

    Christ youve taken some time thinking of this question.
    One answer – The worlds fucked.

  3. dude. Says:

    That’s the corporate mentality, sucks doesn’t it.

  4. Aymee L Says:

    It’s not just Wal-Mart.. alot of insurance companies have that obscure clause….people just don’t hear about them because it’s rare…they should go after the attorney who sued for them…he should have looked at the ins. policy to make sure they were getting a good settlement….seems the attorney that represented them was only in it for a quick buck.

  5. curmudgeon1955 Says:

    Normal legal practice/procedure- the term is subrogation of claim or something like that. The initial paying insurance outfit has a right of recovery from the liable party. Walmart health insurance paid for damages caused by someone else and at end of suits has the right to collect from fault party. This is same as your auto insurance paying under uninsured motorist hit and run accident and later collecting from fault party when they are caught. Annoying bad publicity for Wal-Mart but this is normal practice.

  6. donmustard@sbcglobal.net Says:

    wow! get an atty. ASAP

  7. booboo Says:

    This is just what American business has come to, along with the court system that knows full well!!, that this person is a potential target for an action like this and doesn’t tell them and should include paying Wal-Mart back in any settlement. This is a disgrace and just another example of American business and it’s greed run amok.

  8. MSAD Says:

    Debbie’s health insurance policy is an ERISA policy. (Employer sponsored)

    It has language in it that gives the health insurance company the right to collect from any settlement the injured person gets. It’s call the right of Subrogation.

    As such, the health insurance company has a lien on any settlement. Most likely Debbie (or her legal representative) was put on notice of the lien and did not honor it. If so….yep your gonna get sued.

    Usually the health plan will greatly reduce the amount of their lien. Usually they are willing to reduce their lien to 1/3 – 1/2 of the settlement (depending on the number of people being paid out of the settlement).

    Also, Debbie did not get the full settlement– her lawyer took at least 33% of it as his fee.

    Most likely the settlement will be divided by 3 — 1/3 to the lawyer, 1/3 to the health insurance toward their payment for medical bills and 1/3 to the injured person.

    Think of it this way….had Wal-marts health plan not stepped up and paid all those bills, Debbie would not have gotten the care that she did. I can tell you now…Wal-mart has paid well over 300,000 toward her medical care.

    Debbie will also qualify for full disability now. So this will help to supplement her lost income.

    So, how come your not complaining about the lawyer getting such a huge chunk of the settlement?

    Wal-mart health plan is not a charity…..any more than the lawyer was a charity. Note – settlement 900,000 but Debbie got 417,477. That means the lawyer got over 482,000!

    The way the funds should have been distributed was 300,000 to each (the health plan, the lawyer, the injured person).

    You may not like it…..but just like the lawyer, the health plan is entitled to a cut of the settlement.

  9. Edward Says:

    If she got any of her medical bills taken care of by Wal-Mart then this is more than I would have ever expected. I’m surprised Wal-Mart didn’t fire her for insubordination to get out of paying. If she has 417K it would be a lot easier for her to just pay Wal-Mart back the 5-6 grand.

  10. Nemesis Says:

    You’re talking about
    subrogation
    which has been around for a LONG time
    and MILLIONS have been hit with it.
    You don’t hear about them because:
    A the media likes to dis Walmart
    and
    B she sued and most of us wouldn’t get an attorney to take a case because the sums are in the small thousands–not huge.

    http://healthplanlaw.com/?p=494
    is one article on it.

    Your ACTUAL beef is with the insurers, not Walmart, because they are doing NOTHING different from other employers.