retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Reuters reports that Walmart has told its US employees that they "will pay between 8 and 36 percent more in premiums for its medical coverage in 2013," attributing the increases to rising healthcare costs. The premium hikes, the story says, has prompted "some of the 1.4 million workers at the nation's largest private employer to say they will forego coverage altogether."

According to the story, "Wal-Mart's example could be a blueprint for other employers trying to manage their costs while also preparing to meet the requirements of President Barack Obama's U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010, and is widely referred to as Obamacare.

"The law, the biggest reform to America's healthcare in decades, is intended to make healthcare less expensive but critics question if it will succeed and it will also take years to fully implement. In the meantime, Wal-Mart and other large companies are trying to control their healthcare costs, which have been rising an average of more than 6 percent per year.

"Wal-Mart pays for preventive care such as routine checkups. However, workers must pay deductibles of at least $1,750 before Wal-Mart covers 80 percent of the cost of other care such as doctor visits and diagnostic tests."

• In South Carolina, The State reports that Walmart is teaming up with MetLife to test the sale of one-year term life insurance on store shelves via the purchase of a pre-paid card that can cost as little as $69. According to the story, "MetLife and Walmart say qualifying for the coverage could take as little as 10 minutes by phone after the purchase."
KC's View: