Health care: Wal-Mart employees to pay

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SummaryWal-Mart Stores Inc's U.S. employees will pay between 8 and 36 percent more in premiums for its medical coverage in 2013.

stretch, said Colby Harris, who said he makes $8.90 per hour and takes home less than $20,000 per year working in Walmart's produce department in Lancaster, Texas.

Harris, a 22-year-old smoker, was set to see his cost per paycheck rise to $29.60 from $25.40. He says he has decided not to sign up for coverage. Given his low income, as Harris foregoes coverage any major medical bills could potentially fall to taxpayers through the government's Medicaid program.

More than half of Wal-Mart's U.S. employees sign up for its healthcare plans, which cover 1.1 million people, including dependents. Store workers across the country are offered the same plans as executives back at Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Over the past few years we've all seen the cost of health care continue to rise nationwide, and 2013 is no different, Wal-Mart said in a statement. As a result, we are adjusting rates for some of our health care plan choices. We are doing our best to keep health care costs as low as possible for our associates.

Barbara Andridge, who works at the Walmart in Placerville, California, decided to drop out of a Wal-Mart plan provided for the retailer by a health management organization - when she found out that the cost was set to nearly double to $60 a month. The Wal-Mart HMO plans can be more expensive than Wal-Mart's own.

Sixty dollars isn't a lot to some people but when I have to think about buying winter clothes for my kids or sending my daughter to college I have to think of what is best for my children, she said. Hopefully I'm making the right decision.

Andridge, who makes $12.05 an hour and said her husband was laid off this year, knows that she would have had to pay the same $60 monthly premium no matter how many hours she worked.

Living paycheck to paycheck, I made the decision to swallow my pride and go and get county health, she said in reference to Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid health care program.

RISING COSTS EVERYWHERE

Wal-Mart has been touting its efforts to improve healthcare for its employees, including its October announcement that it would cover all costs, including travel, for costly, complicated heart and spine surgeries at the six centers.

Nearly two-thirds of Wal-Mart employees sign up to cover only themselves. Rates covering individuals will rise $2 to $11 per paycheck, or

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