Wal-Mart Cuts Health Plan Options
Wal-Mart Stores will stop offering new employees traditional low-deductible health plans beginning Jan. 1, 2007, and instead will offer new hires high-deductible plans with lower premiums, the Washington Post reports. Under the revised health care plan, employees will be able to purchase a plan that has a monthly premium of $11 and a $1,000 deductible or a plan with a $17 premium and a $3,000 deductible.
Under the changes, the lowest monthly cost for an employee and his or her spouse would be $38 with a $6,000 deductible (Mui/Joyce, Washington Post, 9/27). One of the plans will allow workers to contribute to a health savings account.
Current employees still will be able to renew their lower-deductible health plans, according to the company (AP/Chicago Sun-Times, 9/27).
Wal-Mart spokesperson Dan Fogleman on Tuesday said that a review of the company's health benefit plans showed that most employees opted for a package with a monthly premium of between $70 and $100 with a $350 deductible, though more than half of employees did not pay that much. Fogleman said, "We've done the math on this, and we have a pretty good understanding of what this is going to mean. Most associates are going to come out better on this."
Fogleman added that Wal-Mart provides health benefits to about 47% of its workforce.
However, the plan changes are "sparking fresh criticism over whether the giant retailer is providing adequate coverage to its workers," the Post reports.
Wake-Up Wal-Mart, a union-backed group, said the changes will force many Wal-Mart employees to seek public health coverage.
Paul Fronstin, director of health research and education at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, said the changes appear to be "pretty standard." Fronstin said, "There is always shifting going on, and it tends to be modest at best" (Washington Post, 9/27).