Wal-Mart, America’s single-biggest employer outside of the U.S. federal government, has announced that in 2014 it will begin offering health care benefits to employees’ domestic partners.
This comes on the heels of both the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) open enrollment period, which begins Oct. 1. In preparation for increased costs to employers, some companies have begun placing limits on who will and will not be covered under sponsored health care plans.
Last week, UPS announced that spouses of non-union employees would no longer qualify for company-sponsored health insurance if they could obtain coverage through their own jobs.
And Forever 21, a clothing retailer, took a slightly different route to bypass feared cost increases. This week the company announced it would cut back the hours of its line workers to 29.5 per week, allowing it to sidestep the mandatory benefits rules of PPACA.
With this in mind, it seems odd timing for Wal-Mart to announce it wants to offer more coverage.
Approximately 1.1 million people are currently covered by Wal-Mart health care plans in the United States. Under the new plan, employees’ domestic partners can be covered if they are legal spouses, not legally separated; or a domestic partner of same or opposite gender in an ongoing, exclusive relationship similar to marriage for at least 12 months with the intention to continue sharing a household indefinitely.
“Since we operate in all 50 states, we thought it was important to develop a single definition for all Wal-Mart associates in the U.S.,” spokesman David Tovar said.