After trying to mollify its critics in recent years by offering better health care benefits to its employees, Wal-Mart is substantially rolling back coverage for part-time workers and significantly raising premiums for many full-time staff.
Citing rising costs, Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, told its employees this week that all future part-time employees who work less than 24 hours a week on average will no longer qualify for any of the company’s health insurance plans.
In addition, any new employees who average 24 hours to 33 hours a week will no longer be able to include a spouse as part of their health care plan, although children can still be covered.
This is a big shift from just a few years ago when Wal-Mart expanded coverage for employees and their families after facing criticism because so many of its 1.4 million workers could not afford or did not qualify for coverage — rendering many of them eligible for Medicaid.
Under pressure from states saddled with rising Medicaid costs and from labor unions and community groups, Wal-Mart had agreed to offer part-time employees, even those averaging less than 24 hours a week, health care insurance after a year on the job, shaving a year off the eligibility requirement. Wal-Mart also said that it was offering health plans that cost its employees about $250 a year for family coverage.
At the time, the moves were considered a departure from some of its major rivals and large employers, more than half of whom offer no company-sponsored health plan for part-time workers.