Wal-Mart Broadens Employee Health Plans After Public Pressure
Wal-Mart Stores over the past three years has improved health plans offered to employees and has expanded enrollment in the plans to 100,000 additional workers, according to new data available for the first time, the New York Times reports.
In recent years, Wal-Mart has faced criticism from lawmakers, labor groups and others for the high cost and limited benefits of health plans offered to employees.
According to the Times, Wal-Mart "has hardly become a standard-bearer for corporate America," as the company provides health insurance for fewer than half of employees, but the "changes in its policies have accomplished what once seemed impossible." The changes indicate the "power of public pressure to change even the biggest corporations" and offer "significant promise in taming what has become a runaway expense for the nation," the Times reports.
For 2008, Wal-Mart employees can select from a number of health plans with a range of deductibles, premiums and credits. In addition, the company offers 2,400 generic medications for $4, a 24-hour medical hotline staffed by nurses from the Mayo Clinic, and a wellness program that promotes exercise and smoking cessation.
Linda Dillman, executive vice president for benefits at Wal-Mart, said that healthy employees "will do a better job at work, they'll be more productive, they'll be happier, nicer to our customers," all of which results in less absenteeism and employee turnover. However, Dillman added, "If Wal-Mart goes out of business because of health care, we won't have accomplished anything in terms of helping people" (Barbaro/Abelson, New York Times, 11/13).
The Times on Tuesday also published a Q&A with Dillman (Abelson/Barbaro, New York Times, 11/13).