Wal-Mart Health Plan Enrollment Numbers Reflect Minor Bump

January 11, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The number of eligible Wal-Mart employees covered by the company's health plan has inched up one percent since 2006, the giant retailer has revealed.

The enrollment number increases have been moving at a snail’s pace, according to figures released by Wal-Mart on Thursday. Forty-seven percent of eligible Wal-Mart employees (or 636,391) are now covered by the company’s health plan, up from the 46% in 2006 and 43% in 2005.

The data was extracted from the Arkansas-based company’s open enrollment surveys, which includes more than 200,000 participants.

According a press release, 43% of associates have health care coverage through another source, which leaves 90.4% of employees covered by Wal-Mart or another source. Those other sources include spouses (22.2%), Medicare (4.5%), parents, school or college (4.2%).

This leaves 9.6% of employees eligible for health benefits without any coverage. “We are not satisfied that 9.6% of associates do not have any type of health care coverage,” said Linda Dillman, executive vice president of risk management, benefits and sustainability, in the news release. “We will continue to work hard to get a better understanding of why people decline health coverage and what we can do to help.”

According to the report, the most common reason that eligible employees decline health care coverage is because they are already covered by another provider (81.71%), followed by 76.47% that say the company is not the primary source of household income and 62.25% who say Wal-Mart is not the primary source of personal income.

Wal-Mart’s record for health coverage for its employees has been the target of fire from politicians (See Doyle Accuses Wal-Mart of Health Care ‘Dumping’)and groups that say the retail giant employs more part-time workers to circumvent higher benefit costs.

Wal-Mart has relaxed some of its health care eligibility requirements for part-time employees, reducing co-payments for some prescription drugs from $10 to $3, and part-time workers will only have to be with the company for one year instead of two to qualify for health insurance (See Wal-Mart Broadens Health Benefits, To Trim Down Drug Co-Pay ).

It announced in September that it was cutting back on its benefit plan offerings for new hires, no longer offering two plans with lower deductibles. The employees can only choose from two plans in which the monthly monthly premium can be as low as $11, but the deductible could reach $6,000 (See Wal-Mart to Restrict New Hire Health Coverage ).