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Wal-Mart Says More Associates Now Have Health Coverage

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. said yesterday that the proportion of its associates who now have health care coverage through its own new associate-tailored plans for 2008 or other sources has increased to 92.7 percent from 90.4 percent, and the number of uninsured associates decreased by more than 20 percent, compared to a year ago. Just over 50 percent are insured through Wal-Mart's plan, the company said.

"Over the past few years, we've spent a lot of time listening to our associates and working closely with them to design a benefits package that better meets their needs," said Linda Dillman, e.v.p. of benefits and risk management for Wal-Mart Stores, in a statement. "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."

Wal-Mart cited data collected in a survey during the fall of 2007 open enrollment period, which found that more than 30,000 associates who chose Wal-Mart's coverage for the first time said they were previously uninsured.

During the past year, the percentage of associates who reported having no coverage declined to 7.3 percent from 9.6 percent, Wal-Mart said.

Wal-Mart also said the company will commission a study to "better understand associates who have declined coverage by researching why they choose to go without health coverage and identifying things that can be done to encourage them to accept health care coverage in the future."

According to Dillman, Wal-Mart's goal "is to have every eligible associate select health care coverage."

She said the company will share its what it learns externally to help advance the overall national discussion about access to coverage and the impact on the uninsured.
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