NEW YORK — Walmart Stores Inc., the nation's largest private employer, is scaling back health care coverage for future part-time workers while raising premiums for many of its full-time workers, particularly tobacco users.
The discounter, which employs more than 1.4 million workers, said that rising health care costs are forcing it to eliminate health care coverage for future part-time workers who work less than 24 hours a week. Many workers will also see their premiums rise, and the company will be reducing by half the amount it contributes for health care expenses that are not covered under their plan. Tobacco users will particularly be hit hard, seeing premiums increase by about 40 percent, the company said.
Greg Rossiter, a Walmart spokesman, said that the decision was not in response to the new health care law but rather to the harsh realities of escalating health care costs.
“Health care costs are continuing to go up faster than anyone would like,” said Rossiter. “It is a difficult decision to raise rates. But we are striking a balance between managing costs and providing quality care and coverage.”
Rossiter said the premium increases vary by plan, but noted that for the most popular health care plan, an associate who paid $11 per pay period, will be paying $15 per pay period next year. He noted that tobacco users with a spouse would pay $141 per pay period for one plan as compared with $108 per pay period for a non-tobacco user.
Rossiter reasoned that “tobacco users consume 25 percent more health care services than non-tobacco users.”