Wal-Mart to End Health-Care Coverage for 30,000 Part-Timers

(Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is cutting health-care benefits for roughly 30,000 part-time employees, citing rising costs.

Wal-Mart said Tuesday that it will end coverage for employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week. The decision affects 2 percent of the retailer’s U.S. workforce of 1.4 million.

For those losing coverage come Jan. 1, the Bentonville, Ark., firm said it will work with an outside company to help workers find “the right, affordable health care.”

“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 at Wal-Mart, wrote in a blog post.

Retailers have been cutting back on health insurance for part-timers as the federal health-care law continues its rollout.

In January, Target Corp. said it would stop offering health insurance to part-time workers, partly because employees could probably get cheaper — and in some cases, better — coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Home Depot Inc. made a similar announcement several months earlier.

In 2012, Wal-Mart stopped offering health care to new hires working fewer than 30 hours a week. Tuesday’s announcement affects those who were grandfathered in.

The Affordable Care Act requires large companies to offer health insurance to employees who work an average of 30 hours or more a week.

In some ways, those working fewer than 30 hours can do better with federal premium subsidies or by enrolling in Medicaid, if their state expanded Medicaid as provided for under Obamacare.

However, as some companies have cut workers’ hours to get below the 30-hour threshold, or stopped coverage they previously offered such part-timers, criticism has mounted that employers have simply dumped workers onto the government dole.

On Tuesday, Wal-Mart also announced workers will see a health-care-premium increase, with its most popular and lowest-cost plan set to increase by $3.50 a pay period to $21.90.