A Wal-Mart store sign in Illinois
A Wal-Mart store sign in Illinois - 
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KAI RYSSDAL: The government hasn't been able to figure out health care. Companies are pushing costs onto their workers. Consumers are trying to cope with rising bills and co-pays. Sounds for all the world like an invitation to a marriage of convenience. And that's where Wal-Mart and organized labor found themselves today in Washington. Nancy Marshall Genzer explains.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott rubbed shoulders with union presidents this morning to announce an unusual alliance on health care. He says businesses can't foot the health-care bill anymore and be competitive. Scott was short on details, but did say something like universal health care would go a long way toward solving the problem.

LEE SCOTT: I do like the fact that worldwide we are able to sell for less and that health care is off the table.

The group did state that every American must have affordable health insurance. Afterwards, former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta shared ideas on just how everyone could be insured.

JOHN PODESTA: Whether that takes the form of expanded Medicare and Medicaid, people need access to group coverage.

And that could happen, with Democrats controlling Capitol Hill. Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern tested the waters last week at a Democratic congressional retreat.

ANDY STERN: And I encouraged them and told them this is the moment to do something about health care. They all stood up and applauded. Now they're going to get a chance.

Stern and his unlikely bedfellows will be lobbying Capitol Hill, and they plan a national summit in May.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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