Whitesburg KY

Wal-Mart unveils new insurance plan

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is adding $4 generic drugs to its health insurance plans and offering lower premiums and deductibles, the third year in a row of changes to employee health benefits that have been a focus of union-led criticism of the nation’s largest private employer.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer said the new 2008 plan will add more than 2,400 generic prescriptions at $4 each. That compared with fewer than 20 generic drugs for a co-pay of $3 under the existing plan.

It will also offer premiums on its lowest-priced Value Plan as little as $8 a month nationwide from $24 a month currently. The new lowest-premium plan for individuals has a deductible of $2,000 a year but no maximum on coverage and an upfront credit of $100 before the deductible kicks in.

Since late 2005, Wal-Mart has shortened the waiting period to become eligible for insurance, allowed part-time workers to cover children, lowered premiums and lowered co-pays for prescription drugs.

The result has so far been an incremental rise in workers taking the company plan. As of the start of this year, 47 percent of Wal-Mart’s 1.34 million U.S. employees were enrolled in company coverage, compared with 46 percent a year earlier and 43 percent at the start of 2005.

Wal-Mart has said most of the remainder are insured through other plans, such as a spouse’s or a second job. That justifies its contention that 90 percent of employees have health coverage.

The retailer wants its number of insured workers to increase, Linda Dillman, Wal- Mart’s executive vice president of risk management, benefits and sustainability, said in a statement.

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