America’s campaign to change supermarket giant Wal-Mart, WakeUpWalMart.com, has released copies of Wal-Mart’s new health care benefits plan for current part-time employees and full-time employees ‘transitioned’ to part-time.
The health care documents were given to the group by Wal-Mart employees concerned about the terrible effects that Wal-Mart’s new policies, in particular the drastic transition from full-time to part-time, are having on employee morale, customer service and store performance.
The first document, a seven-page booklet, titled ‘My Benefits: New Peak Time Benefits: Making a Difference for You,’ details the specific changes to Wal-Mart’s health care benefits which the company announced last month.
The second document is a memo from Wal-Mart’s ‘administrative committee’ to all ‘full and peak-time hourly associates,’ titled a ‘Summary of Material Modifications to Associates’ Health and Welfare Plan.’
Both documents were given to employees as part of a special enrolment period which runs from May 15-26, 2006.
The special enrolment period, however, is not open to all Wal-Mart associates.
Only associates who are part-time and have more than one year of service but less than two years of service (part-timers with more than two years of service are only eligible if they enrol their dependent) and full-time employees who were just ‘transitioned’ to part-time status, are eligible to enroll.
‘Based on these new documents, either Wal-Mart falsely claimed it would offer its low cost plan to 50 per cent of its Associates, or Wal-Mart has “transitioned” many more workers to part-time than has been reported publicly.
‘Either way, Wal-Mart’s rhetoric doesn’t match reality, and Wal-Mart workers are paying way too high a price,’ said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com.
Based on the two documents, it is obvious Wal-Mart’s ‘new health care changes’ will do little to expand health care coverage for many of its 1.3 million employees.
Rather, Wal-Mart’s health care changes are clearly structured to cut health care costs and minimise the public relations disaster from slashing over 200,000 full-time jobs and replacing or transitioning them with low paid part-time workers.
According to a JP Morgan report issued in January 2006, as well as the infamous internal health care memo authoured by Wal-Mart Executive Vice President Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart publicly states it intends to shift hundreds of thousands of full-time workers to part-time status.
In the two health care documents, Wal-Mart coldly refers to this shift as a ‘transition’ and now describes part-time workers as ‘peak-time’ employees.
Under the new health care changes, all ‘transitioned’ employees lose most of their benefits, including dental, life insurance and disability immediately, and will lose their health care benefit after one year.
In addition, part-time Associates are unable to enroll their spouses.
The lack of spousal coverage is consistent with Wal-Mart’s desire to cut health care costs by decreasing spousal coverage.
As Chambers states in the memo, ‘spouses are by far the most expensive plan members to cover.’
Unfortunately, Wal-Mart’s new health care plans continue to remain unaffordable for the average Wal-Mart employee.
Wal-Mart’s most affordable health care option, the Value Plan, has a $3,000 deductible for family coverage and several other deductibles for prescription drug coverage and hospital procedures.
Based on all of the premiums and deductibles in the so-called ‘Value’ plan, a part-time Wal-Mart employee could have to pay up to 58 per cent of his/her salary for an individual plan and up to 93 per cent for family coverage.
Most disturbingly, says the campaign, newly transitioned employees who take advantage of this special enrollment will lose any money they have already spent on their deductible and will once again have to pay the full $3,000 deductible.
‘For the sake of Wal-Mart’s workers, their families, and the American taxpayer, we call on Lee Scott and Wal-Mart to propose real health care changes that don’t dangerously discriminate against single, uninsured part-time workers and exclude health care coverage for spouses.
‘Wal-Mart’s plan to expand health care coverage to employees while making it more unaffordable through lower pay and less hours is deceptive and a national disgrace,’ added WakeUpWalMart.com’s Paul Blank.
Based on the two leaked health care documents, Wal-Mart workers will face significant restrictions under the new health care changes, including:
1) Only uninsured part-time Wal-Mart workers, who also insure their dependents, are eligible to enroll during this special enrollment period.
• ‘If you are a peak-time hourly Associate who has been employed by Wal-Mart for more than two years and are not currently enrolled in any medical coverage option offered by the AHWP, you may enrol yourself in any of the available peak time medical coverage options (except HSA Qualified or HSA Qualified Performance plans), but only if you enrol your dependent children.’ (Memo: Summary of Material Modifications to Associates Health and Welfare Plan; p. 2)
2) Spouses of part-time associates will not be eligible during this enrolment period.
• ‘Your spouse is not eligible for Medical coverage.’ (My Benefits: New Peak Time Benefits Making a Difference for You: page 3)
3) Former full-time workers, now reduced to part-time workers, will lose an array of additional benefits.
• ‘Dental, Optional Life Insurance, Company-Paid Life Insurance, Dependent Life Insurance, Accidental Death and Dismemberment, Short-term Disability, Short-term Disability Plus, and Long-Term Disability – will stop at the end of the pay period in which you transition.’ (My Benefits: New Peak Time Benefits Making a Difference for You: page 4)
4) Former full-time Wal-Mart workers, now reduced to part-time workers, who change plans during this ‘Special Enrolment’ period will lose credit for any money they have already spent against their deductible. Therefore, a worker could have to pay as much as $3,000 in deductibles twice.
• ‘If you switch Medical plans, or if you change your deductible during the Special Enrolment or within 60 days due to your transition, your annual deductible will start over. Amounts already incurred toward your annual deductible will not carry over to your new plan option or new deductible.’ (My Benefits: New Peak Time Benefits Making a Difference for You: page 4)
5) Wal-Mart made no changes to the cost of the deductible for family or individual coverage on any plans.
Deductibles on Wal-Mart’s most affordable plan are as high as $3,000 for family coverage and $1,000 for individual coverage.