NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Friday that the number of U.S. employees who have health care coverage through its plans or another source has risen to 94.5 percent from 92.7 percent a year ago.
The world’s largest retailer said more than 733,000, or 51.8 percent of its U.S. employees, were covered by its own plans as of November 7, 2008, the end of its annual enrollment period.
Wal-Mart said that is up from 50.2 percent who were covered by its own plans a year earlier.
“Regardless of whether they picked it up in our coverage or other source, the encouraging news is that more associates are enrolling in healthcare,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter.
Wal-Mart has faced criticism from labor groups and politicians for its pay and healthcare practices. In 2007, it said it was expanding the number of health care plans it was offering its U.S. employees, including adding healthcare credits and $4 monthly prescriptions for any of 2,400 generic drugs.
Under former Chief Executive Officer Lee Scott, Wal-Mart also joined a coalition of labor groups and businesses pushing for “quality, affordable” health insurance coverage for all Americans by 2012.
The affordability of healthcare coverage was a central theme in 2008 U.S. presidential election, and President Barack Obama is expected to push to revamp the costly and inefficient healthcare system.
Wal-Mart said the number of uninsured employees has dropped by nearly 25 percent in the past year.
The retailer also said it has introduced personalized health records to help employees keep track of their medical files.
Reporting by Nicole Maestri, editing by Dave Zimmerman