The Bottom Line
April 4, 2008

A legal entity known as a corporation, must, in its charter, protect the bottom line. Their legal charge is to make money for the shareholders.

After WWII, many companies and corporations began offering health insurance as an incentive to attract better workers - it sounded like a good idea at the time. Help the bottom line by attracting good workers and do a good thing for employees at the same time.

Today, in order to pad the bottom line - and to be quite frank, the pockets of the executives - there's a clause many companies and corporations are adding to their health insurance policies. It's a simple clause. If you are injured and you sue the party who injured you, the health insurance company wants the money that they paid out back. In some cases, this makes sense - why should you get "paid" by the insurance company and then paid again for medical expenses and pain and suffering.

However, as in the case of the Debbie Shank, sometimes this just means you get screwed again. Shank was hit by a semi and left with brain damage and the kinds of medical bills no one wants to think about. WalMart's insurance company paid her bills as they were supposed to do. Bully for them. The family sued the trucking company and received about $417,000. Enough to put money in trust for her long term care and make sure they had a house wheelchair accessible (instead of their 3 level home). The trucking company carried a maximum liability of a million bucks. Should be plenty, right? Yet somehow, after legal fees and everything else, the family only received $417,000. Well, okay. Accessible house, set up the trust for her continual care - of course, no more health insurance from Walmart since she wasn't working there anymore. They thought they'd be able to use the trust they set up to take care of her.

Three years after the fact, after they are starting to get some normal routine together, NOW Walmart & their health insurance provider wants their money back. The money they originally paid out for her immediate care - some $470,000. More than they'd received to begin with.

And then, as the court decides that Walmart can't have $470,000, but they can have all of the money left in the Shank's trust for her care. No job. No prospect of ever working again. And to top it off, their middle son was killed in Iraq - but with her short-term memory shot from the accident, Debbie Shank "learns" this fact anew every time she asks where he is.

Walmart "apologized" but essentially said, hey, the clause was there. We gotta protect the bottom line and we're required by law to enforce this clause or we set a bad precedent.

I wrote about this the day before Christmas last year. This week, after months of bloggers agitating on the web, and finally getting the main stream press to pick up the story in a serious way. Now, this week, Walmart finally says, "Oh, we guess you can keep the remaining money for her ongoing care."

"We wanted you to know that Wal-Mart will not seek any reimbursement for the money already spent on Ms. Shank's care, and we will work with you to ensure the remaining amounts in the trust can be used for her ongoing care," Curran said. "We are sorry for any additional stress this uncertainty has placed on you and your family."

Gee, how nice of you.

You see, while individuals at Walmart might have wanted to help, the corporation as an entity, simply wanted to protect its bottom line. And it's cheaper to let the Shanks keep their measly $275,000 than take the hit on their PR. Their reputation, it would seem, is worth a bit more than a quarter of a million dollars to them.

What sickens me is this: what IDIOT didn't realize this sooner? If we look just at the corporation's bottom line and ignore the human element as corporations are wont to do - why did they think they would get away without a smack to their reputation for pulling something that is sure to tug at people's heartstrings? Do they often do such things and get away with it? Does it happen often enough to work for them?

And, if we DO look at the human element, what is wrong with every person who touched the case and decided that it should go to court? Did any of them stand up and say, "if nothing else, our reputation is worth more than the money we might gain?"

I know, I know, I'm talking about Walmart's reputation, meh.

The bad thing is, how many people at Walmart who were involved in this case were too damn scared for their own jobs to question policy? How many of them did and were told to shut up?

Well, at least the Shanks have their trust fund to help care for her.

What about the cases we don't know about?

Posted by Red Monkey at April 4, 2008 5:44 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Dee said:

You forgot to mention how they wanted to lay claim to the ubiquitous smiley face too. The nerve!

April 9, 2008 9:26 PM
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