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Wal-Mart: percentage of insured workers up


BENTONVILLE, Ark. The number of Wal-Mart employees with health insurance increased to nearly 92.7% percent last year from 90.4% the previous year, the company disclosed Tuesday.

Wal-Mart employs nearly 1.4 million people in the U.S. and about half of those employees are covered directly by Wal-Mart’s plans, while another 22.3% are covered by spouse plans.

“Just as in the last few years, we are pleased to see an increase in enrollment numbers,” said Linda Dillman, Wal-Mart’s evp of benefits and risk management. “With 690,970 associates and more than 1.1 million associates and dependants in total now covered by Wal-Mart’s plans, we can see that the improvements we’ve made are being embraced by our associates and their families.”

Even so, a company survey of more than 800,000 associates during the recent open enrollment period revealed 7.3% of its employees chose no insurance. To understand why, Dillman said Wal-Mart will commission a study to determine why some employees choose to go without health insurance and what can be done to encourage them to accept coverage in the future.

“While the number of uninsured Wal-Mart associates is less than half of the national average, it is still too high,” Dillman said. “Our goal is to have every eligible associate select health care coverage and we will share our learning externally so that we can help advance the overall national discussion about access to coverage and the impact on the uninsured.”

Wal-Mart’s health care coverage became an issue for the company in recent years as union-backed opposition groups sought to portray the company as providing skimpy benefits and poor working conditions. A preferred tactic in this strategy involved scouring state public assistance rolls to determine how much taxpayer money was being used to provide health care to Wal-Mart employees. The company’s most ardent critic, Wal-Mart Watch wasted no time in responding to Wal-Mart’s release of health care statistics and distributed a statement to the media even as Wal-Mart hosted conference call with Linda Dillman was ongoing. Predictably, the group saw the glass half full and blasted the company for manipulating numbers for public relations purposes.

“We are surprised that Wal-Mart is proud to report that half its employees choose not to take Wal-Mart’s health care plan, including 7.3% who think Wal-Mart’s plan is worse than nothing at all,” Wal-Mart Watch executive director David Nassar said in a prepared statement.

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