Examiner Study: Walmart Health Plans Better than Obamacare

Image: Examiner Study: Walmart Health Plans Better than Obamacare

Tuesday, 07 Jan 2014 02:05 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Walmart is offering better and cheaper healthcare insurance coverage for its more than one million employees than plans competing under Obamacare, the Washington Examiner reports.

A comparison by the newspaper found that Walmart's plans are more affordable and provide better access to doctors and hospitals than the plans offered under the Affordable Care Act.

The Examiner asked health policy experts and independent insurance agents affiliated with the National Association of Health Underwriters to study the plans to see which, if any, were better.

Walmart has two plans from Blue Cross Blue Shield — one called the Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) and another it calls HRA High, which cost employees more but have lower deductibles. Individuals can receive coverage for as little as $40 a month while a family plan costs about $160 a month.

The Walmart plans, which are offered to 1.1 million enrolled employees, differ from Obamacare in that age and gender do not affect premium rates and there are no income eligibility requirements.

A Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) analysis found that unsubsidized Obamacare enrollees will face monthly premiums five to nine times higher than Walmart premiums.

According to the JAMA report, the monthly unsubsidized Obamacare premium for married 60-year-old non-smokers can cost $1,365 compared to Walmart's premium of just $134 for the same couple. The report also said an unsubsidized premium under Obamacare for a 30-year-old single smoker would cost $428 a month, compared to $70 monthly for Walmart employees.

The Times said researchers also found that Walmart staff can use eight of the nation's leading hospitals for heart and back surgery, including the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic, which the department store chain calls "Centers of Excellence."

Walmart employees can also get free hip and knee replacements at four other hospitals nationwide. But none of these hospitals are included in most of the plans obtained through Obamacare's exchanges.

Robert Slayton, an independent Chicago insurance agent and former president of the Illinois State Association of Health Underwriters, noted that the number of doctors and hospitals available in Chicago under Obamacare is very limited when compared to Walmart's plans.

“You will notice there are 9,837 doctors [under Obamacare]. But the larger [Walmart] network is 24,904 doctors. Huge, huge difference,” he said.

The healthcare plans offered by the company have been attacked by unions and other groups for providing "substandard" benefits. But Gail Wilensky, who was in charge of President George W. Bush's Health Care Financing Administration, said, “It’s a lot better program than people, I think, might assume without looking, just because Walmart has gotten such a bad reputation by some of the labor groups and other groups for its general activities.”

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