Walmart has announced that it is ending healthcare insurance coverage for employees who work less than 30 hours per week.
About 30,000 Walmart employees (roughly two percent of its workforce) apparently will lose their insurance.
The retail giant, which has 1.4 million total employees in the U.S., attributed the cutback to rising healthcare costs. The majority of workers who still qualify for coverage will see increased premium costs, the company also indicated, but which are still significantly below the industry average.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Walmart's healthcare costs for this fiscal year total $500 million, and that "Critics of [Obamacare] have been concerned that companies will drop coverage and force workers onto government exchanges."
Under Obamacare, a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act, any employee who works 30 hours or more is considered full time and must be covered by employer-provided healthcare. Non-compliant employers must pay penalty of (for now) $2000 per worker. Many employers across the country have already reduced workers hours (or have warned they might do so) to avoid the Obamacare mandate.
Walmart executive Sally Welborn explained that "We had to make some tough decisions... we are trying to balance the needs of [workers] as well as the costs of [workers] as well as the cost to Walmart."
Most retail chains offer no health insurance benefits to part-time workers. It may be that workers were attracted to part-time positions with Walmart because of the availability of a reasonable-priced health insurance policy.
The affected Walmart employees will likely have to obtain coverage through the Obamacare exchanges, which offer subsidies for lower-income persons. Those subsidies are being challenged in court, however. Moreover, consumers applying for Obamacare who miscalculate their annual income may hear from the tax man down the road.
Irrespective of whether consumers become eligible or not for taxpayer-funded subsides on HealthCare.gov or on a state exchange, many insurance-seekers have already discovered that they are or will be paying higher premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, and in many instances will be locked out of their existing provider networks as a result of Obamacare regulations. Big changes are also in store for millions of workers with job-based insurance once the postponed employer mandate kicks in as of January 1, which includes forced coverage for services that are wholly inappropriate for their age of gender.
Ironically perhaps, those Walmart part-timers might be the first customers for Walmart's new health insurance initiative called, again ironically, Heath Begins Here, which launches on October 10. According to Forbes, "Under Walmart's new partnership with DirectHealth.com, about half of 4,300 Walmart's stores will feature DirectHealth.com licensed agents, who will help consumers shop for health insurance and navigate Obamacare's health insurance exchanges."
In a blog post, Welborn explained the change in Walmart's healthcare benefits program.
"Like every company, Walmart continues to face rising health care costs. This year, the expenses were significant and led us to make some tough decisions as we begin our annual enrollment... We're also changing eligibility for some part-time associates. We will continue to provide affordable health care to all eligible associates, including part-time, who work more than 30 hours. However, similar to other retailers like Target, Home Depot, Walgreens and Trader Joe's, we will no longer be providing health benefits to part-time associates who work less than 30 hours. This will impact about 2% of our total U.S. workforce. We will be working with a specialist, HealthCompare, to personally guide our associates through the process of finding the right, affordable health care..."
In ongoing fallout from Obamacare as The Inquisitr has previously chronicled, in January of this year, Target announced that it was eliminating healthcare insurance benefits for 20,000 part-time associates who worked less than 30 hours a week. Home Depot discontinued coverage for a similar number of part-time employees in September 2013. Grocery chain Trader Joe's canceled its generous health insurance plan for its part-time workforce around the same time. Walgreens also has implemented substantial changes to the way it offers health insurance to its 180,000 employees in the U.S.
When President Obama (along with other Democrats) was trying to sell so-called healthcare reform to the American people, he repeatedly insisted that "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan."
In reporting on Walmart announcement about part-time health insurance coverage, Forbes quipped that "Walmart's advertising slogan has been 'Save Money, Live Better' since 2007. Its latest move will certainly save money, although the second part of the motto is up for debate."
[image credit: Mike Kalasnik]