Wal-Mart to Expand Employee Health Care Efforts with Wellness Programs

September 30, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. on Tuesday said it will continue its push to make health care more accessible and affordable for its Wal-Mart Stores U. S. and Sam's Club associates by introducing new programs designed to keep them and their families healthy.

According to the announcement, one new feature of the 2009 plan is “Life with Baby,” an initiative designed to give associates and their spouses personalized tools and education to help them have healthier pregnancies and infants. The program touches on all phases of maternity, beginning with pre-pregnancy and continuing through pre-natal, postpartum, and child care.

Throughout the phases, associates can receive immediate assistance from a registered nurse and materials tailored toward their individual needs. The plan also includes expanded benefits, such as four periodontal cleanings to help prevent the risk posed by gum disease to the mother and baby, and a new smoking cessation program, the announcement said.

Associates who enroll in Wal-Mart’s “Value” or “Freedom” health care plans will have access to additional preventative care coverage before meeting the annual deductible, including wellness offerings such as mammograms, colonoscopies, flu vaccinations, and well-child office visits. In addition, associates can take advantage of a free, confidential 24-hour registered nurse line through the Mayo Clinic to get information about illness, injuries, and wellness coaching.

Wal-Mart is also helping provide associates and their families access to information that will enable them to make smarter health care decisions, including personal health records (PHR). Associates will now have the tools and resources to access their own life-long PHR through a secure, personal health care account through WebMD that is powered by Dossia, a health information technology consortium.

In the fall of 2007, after years of criticism for its choices in providing health care to its workers (See Wal-Mart to Restrict New Hire Health Coverage ), Wal-Mart announced what it termed “significant changes” to its health care benefits, including an increased number of plan choices and premium choices and a decrease in prescription drug prices (See Wal-Mart Shakes Up 2008 Health Care Benefits ).

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart announced that 92.7% of associates have health care coverage, including 50.2% of associates who have coverage through Wal-Mart’s plan (See Wal-Mart Enrollment Shows Healthy Trends ).