Walmart Cuts Health Care Benefits to Part-Time Employees, But Move Could Increase Workers Comp Claims
Retail giant Walmart recently announced that the company planned to raise health care costs for 1.3 million of its full-time staff, and health care benefits would be cut completely for the 30,000 part-time workers who work at Walmart stores less than 30 hours per week. However, studies in worker health care benefits suggest that Walmart could have increased its overall costs, because employees without health insurance often seek financial assistance for their illnesses and injuries through workers comp filings.
A recent analysis of private insurance vs. workers comp rates conducted through the HCMS Research Reference Group Database linked an increase in workers comp filings and businesses that forced workers to purchase health insurance on their own. Workers who did not receive health insurance options through their employer often selected the lowest possible monthly premium for their health coverage, and when they became seriously ill or injured, those employees needed additional financial assistance to cover their health care costs – so they turned to another form of insurance, workers compensation.
According to the HCMS study, which looked at health care expenses from the first 5 months of 2014 (in which the Affordable Care Act was in full effect), and the first 5 months of 2013. Workers with high-deductible, low-cost health plans filed saw 8.1% increase workers comp claims in 2014 than the previous year. The workers comp claims mainly involved treatment of musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain or carpal tunnel injuries. HCMS stated that steering employees to health care exchanges offered by the state or federal government did not actually improve costs for employers.
Dave Hintz, the technical manager for WorkSafe Services, said that his Michigan-based workers comp insurance company typically saw workers comp filings increase when businesses transitioned to using more part-time or contract employees – employment changes that superficially reduce costs for companies because employers don’t have to offer health insurance to those types of workers.
“We’ve been exposed to some of it before, but we really are just starting to see some employers kind of looking into that,” Mr. Hintz said.
Pam Ferrandino, executive vice president and casualty practice leader at Willis North America Inc. in New York, pointed to an August report from the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau, in California. The report found workers comp indemnity claims increased 19% in Los Angeles County, and 14% in the Los Angeles Basin, despite workers comp filing declines elsewhere in the state.
“The good news may be that there’s job growth again, and often new employees tend to have a higher accident or a higher frequency of workplace injuries,” she said. “But the other reason that could be driving it is the greater utilization in those industries of part-time workers.”
Another potential reason for the increase in workers comp filings could be due to part-time workers receiving less job or safety training and information from employers. Ferrandino added that the more workers a company has – and companies need more part-time employees to cover the shifts full-time workers would otherwise cover – the higher the rate of workers comp injuries and claim filings.
The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation
The workers comp lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local county, city, and state government. We are licensed to practice throughout South Carolina, as well as Georgia and New York. If you are confused about worker’s comp laws, or have had your worker’s comp claim denied, contact us. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800.