In an announcement on Friday Walmart shared their plans to cut back on provision of health insurance for part time employees and intends to raise premiums for full-timers.
The New York Times reported on Walmart's plan. Under the new policy, any new part-time employees working less than 24 hours a week won't be eligible to participate in any of the retail giant's health insurance plans. New employees who work 24-33 hours a week can cover themselves and children, but not a spouse.
Full-time employees can also expect to see changes in the form of increased premium costs and more stringent plans. Reportedly some offered plans will increase by 40 percent, although still lower than other employer-offered plans; the tradeoff for Walmart employees is the high deductible costs that come out-of-pocket.
Health care coverage for smokers will see a sharp increase. The NYT cites figures of $260 to $2,340 a year for Walmart, but also notes this latter change is not unusual in nature. This is a trend seen across the board as many major companies charge smokers higher rates for health coverage
This revised plan appears to be a significant turnaround from the company's 2007 initiative to increase health insurance options to its employees. Over the past several years the retail giant had increased health care options for employees after the company was faced with massive criticism when it was publicized many of the company's employees were eligible and/or enrolled in Medicaid.
Walmart says they have to revamp health care coverage options for employees due to rising costs. NYT reported, Greg Rossiter, a Wal-Mart spokesman said, “Over the last few years, we’ve all seen our health care rates increase and it’s probably not a surprise that this year will be no different,”
Adding, “We made the difficult decision to raise rates that will affect our associates’ medical costs. The decisions made were not easy, but they strike a balance between managing costs and providing quality care and coverage.”
In regards to the latest changes, Dan Schlademan, director of Making Change at Walmart, a union-backed campaign, condemned the changes.
NYT reports, “No wonder people are protesting in the streets,” he said. “This is another example of corporations putting profits ahead of what’s good for everyday Americans. It’s outrageous and damaging to many hard-working families that the biggest corporation in America is increasing health care costs for many employees by 40 percent.” Digital Journal has reported on many of the Occupy Wall Street protests occurring around the world.
Walmart is the largest (private sector) employer in the United States with 1.4 million employees. Additionally the corporation is one of the top employers worldwide.
Walmart's new health care offering changes will reportedly take effect in January.