Under the title (only-a-PR-person-could-make-up) "Providing Quality Benefits for Our Associates," Walmart - who employs 1.3 million people in America, has changed its eligibility standards for healthcare benefits. "Like every company," they explain "Walmart faces rising healthcare costs," and so are ending benefits for associates who work less than 30 hours a week.
In the U.S., the 1.3 million people who work at our stores, clubs and distribution centers are vital to a great experience for the 140 million customers shopping with us each week. We’re in business because our associates bring us their unique skills and talents – and so we do our absolute best to offer all the benefits that come with a great job, particularly affordable health insurance.
Anyone who has been following the news for the last several years knows that health care is a major topic of debate. From doctors’ visits and prescriptions to insurance premiums, health care costs have increased for all of us – individuals and the companies that insure them – each year. Knowing this, Walmart continues to work with health care providers and professionals, using our size and influence to negotiate the best rates and options for our associates.
Like every company, Walmart continues to face rising health care costs. This year, the expenses were significant and led us to make some tough decisions as we begin our annual enrollment. As a result, today we announced that our associates will see an increase in premiums for 2015. For example, our most popular and lowest cost associate-only plan will increase by $3.50 to $21.90 per pay period – still half the average premium other retail employees pay.
We’re also changing eligibility for some part-time associates. We will continue to provide affordable health care to all eligible associates, including part-time, who work more than 30 hours. However, similar to other retailers like Target, Home Depot, Walgreens and Trader Joe’s, we will no longer be providing health benefits to part-time associates who work less than 30 hours. This will impact about 2% of our total U.S. workforce. We will be working with a specialist, HealthCompare, to personally guide our associates through the process of finding the right, affordable health care.
We are proud of the health care plans we offer, which are among the best in the retail industry, as well as the new benefits we’ve introduced over the past two years for our associates. This includes a vision plan that launched this year and our innovative Centers of Excellence program that began in 2013 that covers select spine and heart procedures at no cost to our associates. We expanded Centers of Excellence this year to include knee and hip replacement surgeries and, for 2015, we’re excited to be adding breast, lung and colorectal cancer care at the Mayo Clinic.
We don’t make these decisions lightly, and the fact remains that our plans exceed those of our peers in the retail industry. Our premiums remain well below the industry average compiled by expert Aon Hewitt. We also continue to pay the majority of health care costs for associates covered under our medical plans. For example, on average we cover more than 60% of our associates’ total health care costs and more than 75% of their premium costs. In contrast, the retail industry pays, on average, about 54% of total health care costs and 68% of employee premiums.
All of our eligible associates – both full and part-time – will continue to benefit from our health care options that include no lifetime maximum, preventative care covered at 100%, and $250 up to $1,000 to help pay for medical expenses. We believe these options are among the best in the retail industry.
As our associates continue to work hard for our customers, we will continue working hard to keep their benefits as affordable as possible, enhance the quality of health care they receive and make the cost more transparent, which will benefit everyone.
* * *
We suspect the refrain from the American taxpayer will go something like "thanks Obamacare, you're welcome Walmart."