Wal-Mart Unveils Improved Insurance Plan For Its Employees

Wal-Mart’s rehabilitation continues, possibly: beginning in January, it will offer its employees a revamped insurance package designed to cut costs, expand coverage, and reduce the price of prescription drugs. Even past critics of Wal-Mart, such as health care advocacy group Families USA, are hopeful: “On face value, this looks like a very significant change and improvement.” Some of the plan’s details: a $100-500 grant to defray costs, premiums as low as $5/month, the “elimination” of expensive hospital deductibles, and an increase in the number of $4 prescription drugs to 2,400.

We’re not sure about the details of these details—do the $5/month premiums pay for largely pointless “limited benefit” plans? What deductibles are being eliminated, exactly?— but it’s a step in the right direction.

There are still some valid criticisms. Wal-Mart Watch points out that low wages and long waiting periods (before qualifying for insurance) mean that for a large group of employees, these plans are still unaccessible, and that the new plan is better seen as more of an upgrade for current insurance holders. Too, the cheapest plans have ridiculously high deductibles, which render them fairly useless for low-income families. But others note that it could drive other companies to improve their plans. One benefits consultant says the $4 generics are “game-changing for the industry.”

“Health Plan Overhauled at Wal-Mart” [New York Times]


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  1. killavanilla says:

    Of course, even this will go ignored by the critics of walmart.
    Sort of like the myth that they pay substandard wages, as if someone shows up at a walmart associates home with a whip and chair to force them into work….

  2. chrisburp says:

    It was never about the health care or wages at Walmart…it’s always been about Walmart being unionized. The unions want in and that’s it.

  3. wezelboy says:

    @killavanilla: Do you work at Walmart or have a family member that does so? If not, then shut up.

    I have heard so many first hand Walmart horror stories that it makes me sick.

  4. mopar_man says:


    Substandard wages at Wal-Mart is a myth? Coulda fooled me. And where else is a person supposed to work after a Wal-Mart has moved into town and shut down all the other stores in the community? Yep, Wal-Mart is great alright…

  5. bnet41 says:

    @chrisburp: Yea, I’ve always thought that as well. It’s all about getting them in a union.

    What’s funny is I was in a union at Kroger. The non-union grocery stores that surrounded us paid better, and people got better raises. I was never sure what the union was for except keeping those of who worked the hardest from moving up ahead of the people who’d been there longer. Even though they often did half the work.

    The only people who really benefited from the union were the older members who had been there for 15+ years who had a older and much better contract and provisions that kept that stuff in place. The new members didn’t get any of those perks, and weren’t going to get them as they were only for the workers from the old contracts. I always thought that was so unfair, but no one really seemed to care.

  6. bohemian says:

    Will the expanded $4 generic list be available just to those they insure or will they eventually make that available to the public in their stores?

    We use Target’s $4 generics for many of our scripts. WITH insurance our co-pays for the same generics are $10 at Walgreens. It is cheaper to not run them on our insurance and get them at Target.

    As far as Walmart’s new plan the devil is in the details. They can make the benefit as sweet as they want but if the bar to use the benefit is so high you never can reach it then the plan is a joke.

  7. Squeezer99 says:


    walmart pays more then other stores. here’s one example. John Edwards goes to barnes and noble to protest walmart’s low starting wage of $7.50 an hour next door to the B&N.. the starting wage at the barnes and noble store he was at? $7.00/hr.

  8. Squeezer99 says:

    meh, it butchered my link. try [tinyurl.com]

  9. Berz says:


    I few years ago in college i worked for wally world. They paid better then most other places in the college town.

  10. wezelboy says:

    @Berz: How long did you work there? Did you work full time and have health benefits?

    I won’t argue that Walmart’s starting wage is competitive. But try working there full time for 5 years or more.

    I will also admit that the Walmart employee experience may vary from store to store. Some stores are really bad while others might actually be pretty good. But inconsistency is not an excuse for unfair treatment of workers.

  11. girly says:

    someday… “WalMart General Hospitals”
    eventually… an entire “low-price” sub-infrastructure?

  12. killavanilla says:

    I do not work there.
    Nor does anyone in my family.
    but i know some people that did.
    They made well above minimum wage. Health insurance was offered to them, but they refused.
    I guess I’m not entitled to have an opinion, no matter how fact based it is, unless I work there or my family does.
    Flagged for being abusive….

  13. killavanilla says:

    Walmart doesn’t have some magical power to shut down the rest of the marketplace, nor can they get by paying substandard wages.
    In the outlying suburbs, walmart employees earn more than Target employees.
    Check your facts before you let the myths dictate your truth.
    Wal-Mart pays an average hourly wage of $8.23 an hour.
    That sounds pretty good to me. I worked as a lifeguard one summer and made $5.50 an hour. And that job required me to save lives. Granted, that was a while ago, but still.
    Anyone know the federal minimum wage?
    The federal minimum wage for covered nonexempt employees is $5.85 per hour effective July 24, 2007.
    Those BASTARDS!
    They pay menial laborers almost $3 an hour more than they are federally required to!
    What a bunch of jerks.
    You people are nuts.

  14. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @killavanilla: Yes, Wal-Mart pays more than the federal minimum wage on average, but over half of US states have a higher minimum wage rate. A couple are up to $8.00 this coming January. This means that Wal-Mart still pays more than minimum wage, but not by as high a margin as you say. Please check your facts before you start telling us to check ours.

  15. killavanilla says:

    So you freely admit that walmart pays more than the minimum wage for menial laborers who do their jobs with little to no pride, yet continue to deride them for doing so?
    Then you tell me to ‘check my facts’ before I post?
    Listen, they pay appropriately. They shouldn’t be forced by some union to pay more just because the union says so. That’s what is killing the UAW right now. They price themselves out of reality. Want to know why japanese automakers are in the green while US companies suffer? Unions.
    Plain and simple.
    Until you can provide me with proof that Walmart pays less than minimum wage for a job that doesn’t deserve more, you can’t possibly win this argument.
    They pay well for what the job entails.
    That’s a fact, not an opinion.
    I’m sorry that some folks can’t get jobs that pay well, but I attribute that to personal desire and drive, not the giant,evil walmart.
    Yeah, I’m no fan of that company, but to try to claim they don’t pay fair wages is like trying to say the sun should set later so 9-5ers can get more sun.

  16. wezelboy says:

    @killavanilla: Yes, you are entitled to an opinion. I apologize for telling you to shut up.

    Can you imagine working for $5.85/hr? Can anyone even live on that? How well can someone expect to live on $8.23/hr?

    But that’s besides the point.

    There’s the hour shaving scandal, the refusal to pay overtime even if the workers are forced to work overtime, forcing older workers to do the most physically demanding tasks in the store so that they will hopefully quit and they can bring in someone new who will work at a lower payscale are just a few of the practices that Walmart allows.

    And terminating anyone who even dares to mention unionization is definitely not cool. I’m not pro-union or anything, but people should be able to think about it and decide for themselves without fearing for their job.

  17. killavanilla says:

    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you believe to be ‘unfair treatment’.
    Care to elaborate?
    If they pay more than other places, that seems beyond fair to me.
    They don’t offer health insurance? Big deal.
    I worked at Starbucks in college full time. They paid me less than walmart employees got and offered me no health insurance. Best I got was free coffee and a number of ‘mental health’ visits if I wanted them….
    Those are perks, not requirements.
    And if you work at walmart for 5 years and aren’t trying to get into management, what do you expect? A company car?

  18. killavanilla says:

    Not only can I imagine it, I did it.
    Thankfully, I was a young kid.
    But I guess I don’t get the problem here.
    Don’t like working for Walmart? Go work at dairy queen or burger king.
    Or, and I know this sounds crazy, but go learn a skill.
    Seems to me there are plenty of ways to get money for vocational school.
    And no, $8 an hour isn’t a living wage. But who expects to work an hourly job like walmart and earn a living wage?
    Not me.
    Now there is nothing wrong with working there, but if that is your only job then you’ve got problems that walmart just can’t solve.
    I know guys who fell on hard times and couldn’t get a decent job after the dot com bust that ended up working 2 35 hour a week jobs to make ends meet.
    One guy who I knew had a masters degree in psychology and made $12 an hour cleaning carpets.
    I am friends with a guy who makes $8 an hour working 35 hours a week at starbucks who works a second job to make enough to live.
    No one promised us all great jobs with great money. You have to work hard for that, be it by going to school or getting some kind of education. I just don’t buy the whole ‘living wage’ argument. Especially since I was a waiter for 3 years, then became a restaurant manager and eventually worked my way up to GM.
    If you work hard and apply yourself, there is no reason to work an $8 an hour job for 5 years.
    I get that there have been abuses in the past, but I just don’t think any company should be forced to pay anyone any more than they are legally required to.
    Maybe you disagree – that’s fine – but please call my employer and tell them to pay me more….

  19. killavanilla says:

    Of course, I meant to say that I don’t think any company should be forced to pay any more than they are legally required to if they don’t want to.
    I’m all for companies paying more because they choose to, but disagree with the notion that they ‘should’ just because they are profitable.
    I hate walmart because of the crap they sell, the terrible customer experience, and their history of being somewhat predatory.
    For the record, unions were great before labor laws were sorted out. Now? They are all about making money for the unions…
    Find me a union you like and I’ll find you a reason they are just another beaurocracy…

  20. wezelboy says:

    “I just don’t think any company should be forced to pay anyone any more than they are legally required to.”

    So if you work overtime, you should get paid overtime, right? If you work 40 hours a week, you should get paid for 40 hours a week and not 39.9?

    And while it is true that not all of us can have great jobs with great money, your “work hard and apply yourself” is the same tired argument that the neoconservative movement espoused while they made easy money through government contracts or earmark legislation.

  21. killavanilla says:

    Yeah. If you work 40 hours, that’s what you should get paid.
    And let’s try to keep the neo-con/liberal nonsense out of the equation, ok?
    One look at the ridiculous amount of earmark legislation by Reid and Pelosi is enough to set me off….
    But the idea of working hard and applying yourself isn’t a conservative or liberal idea. It is something that has guided me to relative success in my own life.
    I didn’t do so well in college the first time around, so I started working in restaurants. I was an awesome waiter who worked harder than anyone else and out earned them as well.
    I busted my butt to learn how to bartend by asking questions and helping the head bartender out. I took a huge pay cut for 3 months to work as his barback, then started picking up bar shifts. At my peak of bartending, I was walking away from work with $1000 a week. In the late 90’s and early 00’s, this was awesome money. I started to get more interested in how restaurants really worked, and started asking about management.
    I worked as an assistant manager for 3 months while still bartending before I was promoted to manager. I did that for two years, taking more and more initiative. I worked long hours and did much of what my GM was supposed to be doing. Soon, I started improving processes and customer loyalty and helped devise a server training program. I was approached by the owner of the restaurant (there was a dozen of them now) to go to a failing unit to try and work out some of their problems. 3 weeks later, they fired the incompetant boob there and put me in as GM.
    I was 26 or 27 and a GM of a restaurant earning just below $60k a year.
    If I can do that, so can pretty much anyone else with some hard work and initiative.
    But people don’t like to hear that because it involves hard work, not a handout.
    I eventually quit, returned to school to get my college degree and got the job I have now.
    Hard work and ambition. That’s the formula.
    And it works.

  22. dandd says:

    I really don’t understand all the Walmart hate. Is walmart perfect? Hell no. But they are no worse an employer than any other retail store.

  23. @bohemian: According to the NYTimes, the expanded $4 generic meds list is for employees only. Wal-Mart already sells about 400 drugs to the general public at that price, but they’re offering employees another 2,000 with this plan.

  24. killavanilla says:

    I assume that with the 40 hour vs. 39.9 hours thing you were speaking about the way some walmart managers shaved time off of employees clock ins.
    I can also speak to that.
    I used to be responsible for payroll for my stores…
    I would schedule and budget based on that schedule. If an employee was scheduled for an 8-4 shift, that’s what they were supposed to be paid for unless a manager authorized them clocking in early or leaving late due to circumstances. However, employees would regularly clock in at 7:45 and out at 4:30. That extra 45 minutes of unauthorized work killed our bottom line. 45 minutes X 15 employees equals 11.75 hours of unscheduled, unauthorized work. 7 days a week, and I’ve just paid 2 phantom workers that I didn’t budget for or need.
    So I would roll their hours back to their scheduled hours. Is it legal? I think so. Employees cannot dictate their hours – a manager should.

  25. Trackback says:

    HEALTH CARE PLAN While analysts seem generally upbeat about Wal-Mart’s recently-announced changes to its employee health care plan, the waiting period for elegibility is still a small eternity and deductibles remain unreachably high for most employees.