Wal-Mart employees to pay more for health care plans

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Mon Nov 12, 2012 – Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s  U.S. employees will pay between 8 and 36 percent more in premiums for its medical coverage in 2013, prompting some of the 1.4 million workers at the nation’s largest private employer to say they will forego coverage altogether.

In mailings sent to employees for its recently completed open-enrollment period, Wal-Mart noted that its rates would increase because healthcare costs continue to rise.

For its most popular plan, which covers individuals, the payment per bi-weekly paycheck is going up by $2, or 13 percent. Other plans will see larger increases as the world’s largest retailer, known for low prices, tries to control its own costs.

Still, Wal-Mart said average costs its employees will bear should only rise about 4.4 percent in 2013, due to the elimination of some high premium plans, its move to offer free heart and spine surgery to most employees at six health care centers, and provision of other services, such as access to a healthcare advisor. That is less than the 9 percent average increase expected for all American workers next year, according to a study by human resources firm Aon Hewitt, though it isn’t clear whether the figures are comparable.

Wal-Mart’s example could be a blueprint for other employers trying to manage their costs while also preparing to meet the requirements of President Barack Obama’s U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010, and is widely referred to as Obamacare.

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