Few people consider Walmart a paragon of public virtue. But no one would deny that Walmart is the avatar of low costs.
That's what makes a recent piece on Walmart's employee health-care plan so interesting. The company long resisted providing benefits to employees at all. But then it discovered that health care actually wasn't that expensive for most workers -- big costs were really driven by a small number with high-cost conditions. Then it realized that it could drive down those high costs through a simple expedient: providing even better care. All of a sudden, workers with serious health challenges were getting all-expenses-paid trips to the Mayo Clinic.
"We come at it from the perspective of how can we improve quality," a senior vice president told National Journal. "When we improve quality, often there will be a reduction in waste or unintended or unnecessary cost." (This echoes similar findings about Mayo's approach generally.)
Aside from what this says about health care, there is a lesson here about government.