BENTONVILLE, Ark., Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Walmart, the world's largest retailer and the largest U.S. employer, said it is drastically reducing its healthcare benefit plan.
The changes affect new workers, both part time and full time, The New York Times reported Friday.
New workers putting in an average of 24 hours per week or less will be cut out of the loop entirely, Walmart told employees. Fresh hires working 24-33 hours per week will be offered healthcare benefits for their children, but not their spouses. For full-time workers, premiums for many are rising sharply.
The company blamed higher costs.
"Over the last few years, we've all seen our healthcare rates increase and it's probably not a surprise that this year will be no different," said company spokesman Greg Rossiter.
"We made the difficult decision to raise rates that will affect our associates' medical costs. The decisions made were not easy, but they strike a balance between managing costs and providing quality care and coverage," he said.
Walmart declined to provide details on how many were affected by the changes, but in 2009 the company said 52 percent of its employees were signed up for a company healthcare plan. Today 1.4 million people are Walmart employees.
Compared with many companies, Walmart workers contribute less out of pocket for their healthcare plans, but many are unhappy with the coverage that sometimes includes a deductible equal to about 20 percent of their income.