Wal-Mart Cuts Some Health Care Benefits

By Steven Greenhouse and Reed Abelson
The New York Times, October 20, 2011

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.

Wal-Mart also significantly reduced the amount of money it contributes to the savings accounts workers can use to pay for medical bills that are not covered under their plan. Last year, the company put $1,000 into accounts for families but it will cut the amount by half for next year to just $500.

Barbara Collins, a sales associate at the Wal-Mart in Placerville, Calif., said that the premiums for the H.M.O. plan for herself and her 5-year-old son would rise to $18 every two weeks from $10. Her big concern, she said, was that her deductible would jump to $5,000 a year, from $1,000 — a daunting amount considering she earns $19,000 a year.

Dan Schlademan, director of Making Change at Walmart, a union-backed campaign, condemned the changes.

“No wonder people are protesting in the streets,” he said. “This is another example of corporations putting profits ahead of what’s good for everyday Americans. It’s outrageous and damaging to many hard-working families that the biggest corporation in America is increasing health care costs for many employees by 40 percent.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/21/business/wal-mart-cuts-some-health-care-benefits.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=all

And…

The Richest People in America

Forbes
September 21, 2011

#6 Christy Walton $24.5B

#9 Jim Walton $21.1B

#10 Alice Walton $20.9B

#11 S. Robson Walton $20.5B

http://www.forbes.com/forbes-400/#p_2_s_arank_All%20industries_All%20states_All%20categories_

And…

Wage Statistics for 2010

Social Security Online
October 21, 2011

By definition, 50 percent of wage earners had net compensation less than or equal to the median wage, which is estimated to be $26,363.55 for 2010.

http://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2010

A fundamental principle in the Affordable Care Act is that we would continue to rely very heavily on employer sponsored plans for the majority of health care coverage in America. How is that working? Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, is increasing the insurance deductible to $5,000 for an employee earning $19,000 per year.

Yet look at her employers. Four members of the Walton family are amongst the eleven wealthiest individuals in America, each worth over $20 billion. (Compare that with the Koch brothers, who own Congress, each worth $25 billion.) This is in a nation with a median wage of $26,364.

Relying on employers to do the right thing no longer cuts it. Not only do they fail to pay enough, they can no longer be relied upon to see that their employees and their families receive adequate health benefits.

It’s time to enact an improved Medicare for all, even if we have to “Occupy Congress” to accomplish that.