MAY 01, 2006

The cost of generic drugs for employees at the nation's largest retailer will drop sharply this year under a new arrangement that sweetens health care benefits for millions of workers at Wal-Mart.

Under the plan, the copays that Wal- Mart employees will pay for generic prescriptions for a number of important drugs will drop from $10 to $3—an adjustment that will produce significant savings on generics used in the treatment of diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and infections.

In addition to lowering copay levels for these generic drugs, the chain is also reducing the waiting period for health coverage eligibility to 1 year and is expanding benefits for children of part-time employees. Those changes were made in response to criticism from organized labor groups that Wal-Mart has been providing inadequate health coverage for its workers.

In announcing the lower copays for generic drugs and other adjustments, officials at the chain urged other US retailers to enhance health benefits for their workers.