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This Web site contains a compilation of more than a thousand consumer finance  columns written by Tony Novak from the 1980s through 2006, updated and reformatted for maximum usefulness today.  New material was added after 2010.

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Wal-Mart health benefits

originally posted: 11/22/2006  reposted: 2/18/2011 This post has not been recently reviewed or revised by the author and may be out of date. If in doubt, please send a new question or ask for an update.

Q: You said to try to wait awhile before making a decision to change health plans to Basic Health Insurance because my employer Wal-mart might change health benefits under new state laws. When will these changes happen? Also what would be the best plan that is affordable?

A: Wal-mart announced changes to its employee health plan that bring both good news and bad news. First the bad news for Wal-mart employees: because of the company's voluntary changes to extend health benefits to part-time workers, efforts to push legislation on this issue might lose power. We do not expect any significant additional state or federal laws in 2006 that will benefit Wal-mart employees. The good news is that all part Wall-mart employees with more than one year of employment and their children will be eligible for health benefits by the end of 2006. The company's percentage payment is the same as for full-time employees but employee contributions are required. Special attention is being paid to make the health benefits affordable through salary reduction even to those on retail salaries. The starting level of benefits, for example, may require an employee contribution of less than $20 per pay period. These low cost options limited benefit plans are similar to those offered to the public like Core Health or Value Benefits. Since an open enrollment period will be available within a matter of months, it makes sense to reconsider a short term medical insurance policy on a month to month basis that will protect you in the interim and provide a Certificate of Creditable Coverage that will allow payment for pre-existing medical conditions to begin as soon as possible. (We assume that the Wal-Mart plan will have a waiting period for pre-existing conditions for those employees without proof of prior coverage but this has not been confirmed). The best deal for you right now may be Simple STM because, as the name implies, it provides strong protection for large medical risks at the lowest possible cost. The Wal-mart health plan will be available to all part-time employees after 12 months of employment, so it makes sense to use one 12 month or two 6 month policies to cover the gap and ensure the benefits of continuity of coverage under federal HIPAA law. The Basic Heath Insurance plan you asked about can still be used but keep in mind that this is intended as a supplement and not as the primary protection from major medical problems. On the other hand, this policy pays cash benefits in addition to any coverage available through the Wal-mart health plan or other health insurance, so you may want to overlap these policies if your budget allows. Finally, note that Basic Health Insurance does not provide a Certificate of Creditable Coverage.


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