Health insurance at Sam’s?
- The Wall Street Journal reported Sam's Club, membership warehouse division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., would unveil a health insurance plan for its customers on Jan. 4, making such a service available in all
stores for the first time. Sam's Club, with nearly 600
stores, will allow small business owners with memberships to buy health insurance for their employees through Salt Lake City-based insurance broker Extend Benefits Group LLC. The coverage is available elsewhere, but Extend Benefits will charge Sam's Club members lower fees: $150 to establish an account versus $500; and $4 a month for administration versus $5. This provides no additional revenue for Sam's, but could help the division further justify a previously-announced increase in membership fee - now $35 for small business owners, to rise $5. Those fees provide most of Sam's Club's net income, as rival Costco Wholesale Corp.'s $45 fees do for it; No. 3 BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. followed Wal-Mart with plans for a $5 fee increase, but Costco hasn’t. Upon enrolling with Extend Benefits through Sam's, an employer can set the amount his or her company will pay to employees' insurance. Thereafter, each employee chooses from an array of coverage plans to match his or her health-care needs. That could range from an HMO with no deductible to a PPO with a $10,000 deductible. Premiums are based on each employee's age, location, and health. Previously, Sam's offered basic, small group insurance plans in 12 states and a discount program on health-care services from UnitedHealth Group's Health Allies in all states.