Wal-Mart Stores Revamps Health Care

Bentonville, Ark., Wal-Mart Stores will introduce a new health care plan that brings cheaper monthly premiums to its employees as well as innovative health savings accounts, the New York Times reported today. The program, called the Value Plan, carries a relatively high $1,000 deductible, but monthly premiums for an individual will average less than $25. For a family, the premium will be about $65 for those on the Value Plan.

Health savings accounts were created as part of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. They are tax-free accounts, used in conjunction with high-deductible health plans, that allow users to pay for current or future medical expenses.

The company has not yet announced the plan in a formal way, but workers have been given many of the details, according to the report. Wal-Mart’s health-care plan has often been cited by its critics as inadequate. The new plan marks an effort by the world’s largest company to lower the costs of health care for its 1.2 million associates.

Some critics of Wal-Mart remain unsatisfied by the changes. The group WakeUpWalMart.com has called the program “a publicity stunt.” Other observers, however, point to the generosity of the part of the plan that allows the patient to visit the doctor three times before paying a deductible.

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