Health Care Benefits Cost Being Passed On to Employees By Wal-Mart

Critics of the health care reform act passed under President Obama have generally gone one of two ways: either saying that the reforms don’t go far enough and should have obliterated profit-centric insurance companies entirely, or contending that due to the law, companies will be “forced” to pass rising costs on to workers or otherwise compensate by trimming workforces or benefit levels.

It seems Wal-Mart is feeding the latter group’s grumblings, despite an original assertion the mega-retailer favored health care reforms. The company has announced a shift in coverage burden to its notoriously poorly-paid workforce, as well as some cuts to coverage for employees who work fewer hours. Wal-Mart has come in for criticism in the past for passing its insurance costs on to taxpayers with a workforce eligible for and often reliant on programs like Medicaid, but it doesn’t seem this factored into the decision of one of the largest employers in the US.

Spokesman for Wal-Mart Greg Rossiter told the New York Times:

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen our health care rates increase and it’s probably not a surprise that this year will be no different. We made the difficult decision to raise rates that will affect our associates’ medical costs. The decisions made were not easy, but they strike a balance between managing costs and providing quality care and coverage.”

While it seems the problem can’t be tackled until Americans face the fact that a for-profit healthcare system has become unaffordable for a growing number of Americans, many still believe that moves to reform health care and make access more affordable are a step in the wrong direction. However, it seems that Wal-Mart’s decision to drop some employees- part-timers at over 30 hours per week- may be changed by law when the reforms go into effect in 2014.

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