Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Chief Executive Lee Scott said Sunday that soaring health-care costs were among the biggest challenges facing retailers and called on the U.S. government to help.
In a speech to the National Retail Federation convention in New York, Scott said the U.S. health-care system was in "crisis."
"We believe it is time for the government to step in ... and get a handle on health-care costs," Scott said. He gave no examples of potential remedies.
In an address that Scott acknowledged sounded defensive at times, the CEO of the world's largest retailer repeatedly chastised the media for its extensive coverage of Wal-Mart, joking that it had become the "poster child" for concerns about the U.S. trade gap with China.
Although Wal-Mart is the largest U.S. importer of Chinese goods, Scott said the retailer believed in buying American and was willing to pay more to put U.S. goods on its shelves.
"We can't tell the customer what to buy," he said, noting that Wal-Mart was a major customer of textiles maker Pillowtex, which went under last year.
Scott said manufacturing work would continue to move to China, but he said cheap labor was not the only factor, with some manufacturers moving production to escape steep U.S. health-care and workers' compensation costs.