Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest private-sector employer in the U.S., will cut medical benefits to about 30,000 workers in response to mounting health-care costs and the growth of alternatives available under Obamacare.
Wal-Mart will no longer provide health coverage to employees who work less than 30 hours a week, according to a statement Tuesday on its website. The change is in line with moves by fellow retailers, including Target Corp., Home Depot Inc. and Walgreen Co., the company said.
“We don’t make these decisions lightly, and the fact remains that our plans exceed those of our peers in the retail industry,” Sally Welborn, senior vice president of global benefits, said on the company’s blog.
The U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, doesn’t require companies to cover part-time workers, and offering them health plans may disqualify those people from subsidies in government-run insurance exchanges that opened last year.
The coverage provided by the law softens the blow of companies eliminating benefits, said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a Washington-based group representing health-care consumers.
“People who are losing coverage can get it in a way that provides high-quality coverage at a much lower price,” he said. “Many of these people will be better off.”
Today’s move, which affects about 2 percent of Wal-Mart’s 1.3 million U.S. employees, follows the retailer’s elimination of benefits for many new part-time workers in 2012. Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, will rely on the firm HealthCompare Insurance Services Inc. to help employees find replacement coverage.
The world’s biggest retailer also is increasing premiums as it projects a more than $500 million rise in health-care spending this year. The company’s lowest-cost health plan -- its most popular offering -- will climb by $3.50 to $21.90 per pay period. Wal-Mart pays employees biweekly and covers 75 percent of its employees’ premiums.
Assuming the 30,000 part-time workers used the lowest-cost plan, eliminating their benefits would save the company about $50 million a year, according to Bloomberg estimates.