Wal-Mart to Offer Employee Wellness Programs

At a time when increases in health costs are driving many individuals and companies to cut back, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced this week it will continue its push to make health care more accessible and affordable for its Wal-Mart Stores U.S. and Sam's Club associates by introducing new programs designed to keep them and their families healthy.

"We have worked hard to provide high-quality, affordable health care to our associates and I think this additional focus on wellness steps us up to a new level," said Walmart U.S. President & CEO Eduardo Castro-Wright. "Over the past year, our associates have told us they wanted additional help in keeping themselves and their families healthy, and we have responded with new plans designed to do just that."

One new feature of the 2009 plan is "Life with Baby," an initiative designed to give associates and their spouses personalized tools and education to help them have healthier pregnancies and infants. The comprehensive program touches on all phases of maternity, beginning with pre-pregnancy and continuing through pre-natal, postpartum and child care. Throughout the phases, associates can receive immediate assistance from a registered nurse and materials tailored toward their individual needs. The plan also includes expanded benefits, such as four periodontal cleanings to help prevent the risk posed by gum disease to the mother and baby, and a new smoking cessation program.

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart announced that 92.7 percent of associates have health care coverage, including 50.2 percent of associates who have coverage through Wal-Mart's plan. The company said it is also helping provide associates and their families access to information that will enable them to make smarter health care decisions, including personal health records (PHR). Associates will now have the tools and resources to access their own lifelong PHR through a secure, personal health care account through WebMD that is powered by Dossia, a health information technology consortium. Whether it is communicating more effectively with doctors or keeping track of vaccinations, PHRs give associates the ability to take a more active, informed role in their own health, as well as that of their families. These enhancements are in addition to other recent changes the company made to its overall benefits program including its dental, Profit Sharing and 401 (k) plans.

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