A large retailer often accused of skimping on health benefits may be adding a high-deductible health insurance plan.[@@]

Wal-Mart Inc., Bentonville, Ark., in January will introduce a high-deductible, health savings account-compatible plan that could cost as little as $25 per month for individual employees and $65 per month for employees who want family coverage, according to a report in today’s New York Times.

Employee contribution rates would be at least 40% lower than the contributions for the plan that now covers about half of Wal-Mart’s 1.2 million employees, according to the Times.

The plan reportedly will include some coverage for preventive care, but it also will include a $25,000-per-member cap on health benefits during the first year that a member belongs to the plan.

Representatives for Wal-Mart have not returned telephone calls.

Labor activists at Wal-Mart Watch, a Web site that is highly critical of Wal-Mart health benefits, say the new plan will “hurt workers more than it helps.”

HSA plans “are aimed at saving money for the employer while threatening the care of low-income and less healthy workers,” the activists argue.