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A Kinder, Gentler Wal-Mart?

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One more reason to give the Walmart cheer?

Surprising news, especially given skyrocketing health care costs, the number of companies recently announcing cuts to their health plans, and Wal-Mart’s less than stellar reputation to date in the area of employee benefits.

Wal-Mart, which has long been criticized for the benefits it offers to its workers, is introducing a cheaper health insurance plan, with monthly premiums as low as $11, that the company hopes will greatly increase the number of its employees who can afford coverage.

Jumping into a new area, Wal-Mart is also offering health savings accounts, which the federal government introduced last year. Few employers offer them.

The new benefits, which Wal-Mart calls the Value Plan, follow years of complaints that at Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, health insurance is out of reach for many of its 1.2 million workers in the United States, forcing thousands of them to turn to state-sponsored programs or forgo health coverage altogether.

Between this latest news and the amount contributed to hurricane relief, Wal-Mart is sure to be riding high in the positive PR department.

Geez, before you know it, they’ll be going soft on their supply chain partners too.

Wonder if this is the beginning of the end to “Everyday Low Pricing?”