Covered California Faces Criticism Over Plan To Partner With Wal-Mart

Covered California — the state’s health insurance exchange — is facing criticism over a plan to allow Wal-Mart to enroll individuals in the health plans offered through the new insurance market, the Los Angeles Times reports Covered California officials want employees at Wal-Mart and other retailers to help individuals learn about and purchase health plans offered through the state health insurance exchange.

However, labor unions and consumer advocates oppose the idea, arguing that Wal-Mart and similar retailers should not advise others on health coverage when many of their workers do not qualify for employer-sponsored health insurance and instead get benefits through Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program.

James Araby — executive director of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union’s Western States Council told the LA Times, “We are appalled and offended that the exchange would contemplate partnering with Wal-Mart and other retailers notorious for failing to provide health benefits to many of their workers and providing substandard benefits to the workers who do qualify.” Wal-Mart defended its employee health benefits and said that they exceed what many retailers typically offer their workers. A spokesperson for Wal-Mart said that it is too early to discuss a partnership with the exchange.

Labor leaders met with Covered California officials with a goal of developing requirements for retailers that partner with the exchange to ensure they are providing comprehensive health benefits for workers. Union leaders said they will pursue legislation if they cannot reach an agreement with exchange officials.

Peter Lee — executive director of Covered California – told the LA Times, We are not changing our retail strategy, and it would be a distraction to have legislation about setting different standards for who the exchange can work with.”

Last Updated 10/21/2020

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