October 31, 2011
By Harry Kelber
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 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 2009, Wal-Mart said 52 percent of its employees obtained health coverage through it, but on Oct. 18, it declined to give the current percentage.
These moves are also occurring in a post-recession period when Wal-Mart has been struggling to regain its footing after months of disappointing or flat sales. And with unemployment still hovering around 9 percent employers may feel less compelled to offer expansive benefits to people desperate for work. But Wal-Mart must know that in hard times, working families need more health care protection, not less.