Wal-Mart Inches Forward on Health Coverage

Wal-Mart announced new health care plans for workers Tuesday that could help its 25,000 Colorado employees get better coverage. Health care reform advocates are calling it a step in the right direction.

Employees will be able to choose from 50 combinations of premiums, deductibles and credits, the New York Times reports. But while the choices could get confusing, many employees will be able to customize their plans according to their needs.

“On face value, this looks like a very significant change and improvement,” Families USA President Ron Pollack told the Times. His non-partisan organization advocates for health care reform.

continued…Annual deductibles for the new plans will range from $350 to $2,000. Monthly premiums will begin at $5 for the highest deductible and increase for lower deductibles.

But even with more flexibility, the plans could still be pricey for some employees in Colorado. The average full-time hourly employee in Colorado makes $11.50 an hour, or less than $2,000 a month before taxes. At that income level, a $5 monthly premium is affordable, but could the employee come up with the $2,000 deductible if major medical care is needed?

Still, advocates agree that even catastrophic coverage is usually better than none, and all participating employees will benefit from a new prescription drug plan that offers 2,400 generic drugs for a $4 co-pay.

Not all employees will immediately benefit from the new plans. Wal-Mart places a six-month waiting period for enrollment on full-time employees, and part-time employees must wait a year.

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