Wal-Mart plans 1-stop health coverage shopping, cuts benefits to employees

October 9, 2014
Photo: Wal-Mart (AP Photo)
In this May 9, 2013 file photo, a worker pushes shopping carts in front of a Wal-Mart store in La Habra, Calif. 

Wal-Mart is taking its one-stop shopping to another area: health insurance.

The world's largest retailer plans to work with DirectHealth.com, an online health insurance comparison site and agency, to allow shoppers to compare coverage options and enroll in a plan — whether it's a Medicare or public health care exchange plan.

Customers can enroll online, by phone or at 2,700 of Wal-Mart's more than 4,000 stores, starting Oct. 10. The stores will be staffed with independent insurance agents from DirectHealth.com.

The strategy is another step into insurance marketing as the retailer tries to use its mammoth size to expand beyond food and other basics at a time of sluggish traffic and sales.

The news comes after Wal-Mart announced plans earlier this week to eliminate health insurance coverage for some of its part-time U.S. employees in a move aimed at controlling rising health care costs.

Wal-Mart tells The Associated Press that, starting Jan. 1, it will no longer offer health insurance to employees who work less than an average of 30 hours a week.

The move, which would affect 30,000 employees, follows similar decisions by Target, Home Depot and others to eliminate health insurance benefits for part-time employees. A senior manager says the company will use a third-party group to help part-time workers find insurance alternatives.