Newspaper article International New York Times

30,000 Walmart Workers Lose Health Care Coverage

Newspaper article International New York Times

30,000 Walmart Workers Lose Health Care Coverage

Article excerpt

The world's largest retailer will cancel insurance benefits for part-time workers, joining other companies that have rolled back benefits.

Walmart Stores, the world's largest retailer and the largest private employer in the United States, will end health insurance coverage for about 30,000 part-time workers, joining a string of retailers that have rolled back benefits in response to the Affordable Care Act.

Starting on Jan. 1, Walmart will no longer offer insurance to employees working less than an average of 30 hours a week, a move the retailer said was in response to an unexpected rise in health care costs.

"This year, the expenses were significant and led us to make some tough decisions," Sally Welborn, Walmart's senior vice president for global benefits, said in a blog post on Tuesday announcing the changes.

The workers losing their coverage make up about 5 percent of the company's part-time work force of about 600,000, including in- store, logistics and corporate workers, said Brooke Buchanan, a company spokeswoman. Walmart did not disclose what percentage of the part-time work force would be left without coverage. Many part-time employees were never covered for a variety of reasons.

Over all, Walmart employs about 1.3 million people in the United States, and provides health coverage to about 1.2 million workers and workers' family members, Ms. Buchanan said.

In scaling back coverage for part-time employees, Walmart joins retailers including Home Depot, Target and Trader Joe's, which have dropped benefits in response to the Affordable Care Act, the health care overhaul enacted by the Obama administration. In 2011, Walmart eliminated health insurance for employees working fewer than 24 hours a week.

The company said that the health law's introduction had prompted larger-than-expected numbers of employees to enroll in its health plans, driving up expenses.

The retailer expects to spend an additional $500 million on health care costs in the United States this year, it said in a filing in August, far more than the $330 million increase it forecast in February.

The Affordable Care Act, the most comprehensive overhaul of the nation's health care system in decades, requires most Americans to enroll in health insurance or face a tax penalty. …

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