Two years ago, Wal-Mart took an important step toward employee health, expanding coverage for employees and their families in the face of public criticism that many Wal-Mart workers could not afford coverage and were on Medicaid.

This week, the nation’s largest private employer announced it was making massive cuts to its health care program. Part-time employees (those who work fewer than 24 hours a week) are no longer eligible for health insurance, and employees who work between 24 and 33 hours per week won’t be able to include spouses on their plans, although children will be eligible for coverage.

Full-time employees will see changes to their coverage next year, too; premiums are rising by 40 percent, and, in some cases, deductibles are more than tripling.

The company said these changes were not a result of the health care reform law, but reflected necessary changes due to the rising cost of health care.

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