Walmart’s announcement this week that it will drop health care coverage for its part-time employees reiterates that employer-sponsored health care coverage is changing, and those benefit advisers who plan to remain relevant to clients must change, too.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart Stores Inc. said Tuesday it will no longer provide health care coverage to employees who work less than 30 hours a week, following similar moves by retailers such as Target Corp., Trader Joe’s, and Home Depot Inc. It’s a move benefit industry experts say other companies are sure to follow. Benefit advisers should be prepared to provide solutions for those clients that choose to do so.

See related: 5 companies that dropped part-time employee health care

“Brokers must have an empathetic attitude paired with an answer and a solution for the employer — one they can easily communicate to their employees,” says Tanya Boyd, a broker and owner at Tanya Boyd and Associates in Sunnyvale, Texas.

She adds, “This does not mean a loss of revenue to the broker, just a new way of doing business. Brokers who said they weren’t touching the state or federal exchanges and didn’t want to mess with individuals getting subsidies, might just want to change their tune.” 

The Walmart decision about its part-time employees "further establishes the trend of part-timers being sent to the individual market, whether on or off exchange. It's an easy decision to make since not only can their part-time employees qualify for health coverage but for many the taxpayer subsidy will be greater than the employer subsidy had been," says Nelson Griswold, a consultant to agencies and president of Bottom Line Solutions. 

Benefit advisers can explain and demonstrate to their employer clients how most of their part-time workers may be better off not having access to employer-sponsored coverage, says Boyd. “Not only could they qualify for a subsidy and lower monthly premiums, but many of them could qualify for cost sharing,which means they could have much, much better coverage than what their employer is offering.”

As their broker, Boyd adds, “You better tell that employer you will help their employees get coverage — and find a good systematic way to implement and deliver your promise.”

In the small-group market, many employers are not and have never offered health care coverage to employers, but “the smart adviser can use the news about Walmart to open some doors to companies that do have a lot of part-timers,” says Mel Schlesinger, a sales and marketing professional and EBA columnist.

Advisers should be talking with employers about how to attract high quality part-time employees and offering benefit solutions about how to do that, he said.

“Advisers should be changing their approach, because if they don’t they won’t survive,” says Schlesinger. “The approach they’ve been using has a limited life expectancy.”

Advisers can’t keep focusing only on the “I’m going to save you money,” approach, he said.

Walmart’s move yesterday affects about 2% of its 1.3 million U.S. employees, the company says, adding that it will rely on the firm HealthCompare Insurance Services Inc. to help employees find replacement coverage.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit Adviser content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access