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Kroger Cuts Health Insurance Benefits For Spouses

kroger sign

Photo: J.C. Burns (flickr)

Kroger employs 5,800 people in the Indiana region.

Kroger will no longer provide spousal health insurance benefits to its employees starting January 1, 2014, according to a an agreement between the company and several union, including Local 700 United Food and Commercial Workers union , ratified in late June.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 700 leaders declined request for comment, but John Elliott, the spokesperson for Kroger’s Central Division in Indianapolis, says Kroger’s new insurance policy is more generous than what is required by the Affordable Care Act.

Under the agreement, Kroger will provide what Elliott calls a more stable pension fund, various pay increases, and health insurance benefits for part-time workers who work as few as 20 hours per week. The Affordable Care Act mandates companies with 50 employees or more provide health insurance to employees who work 30 hours or more per week.

“We went into this discussion knowing that we wanted to protect coverage for our part-time associates,” Elliott says.

He adds that while the Affordable Care Act played a role in Kroger’s decision, the real reason for the change in health insurance policy was the increasing cost of health care in the United States.

“There is a lot of comment about the Affordable Care Act and so on and those mandates are something that we have to factor into those discussion, but frankly, healthcare costs were going up dramatically with or without the Affordable Care Act, it just adds some specific requirements that we have to fund to deal with,” he says.

Elliott says 89 percent of union members voted to ratify the contract.

“We have a long history of working together side by side, sleeves rolled up at the table, to collaboratively solve problems together,” he says.

But not everyone was pleased with the outcome of the labor agreement.

Robert Young, who has been a Kroger employee for more than 40 years, says he is reeling from the changes in spousal insurance policies. He and his wife, Nancy, both worked at Kroger since they graduated high school. They met at their home store in Paris, Ill., and were married in 1978.

Nancy Young, who is now retired, was diagnosed with ovarian and colon cancer in October of last year, and under Kroger’s new health insurance policy, she will no longer qualify for her husband’s health insurance benefits.

“All the time we were working, we never used the insurance at all,” he says. “My wife came down with ovarian cancer and had colon cancer at the same time. We’ve dealt with that since October of last year. But now that we really need it, Kroger takes it off the table, we no longer have it.”

Young says employees at his store were not notified of the changes in health insurance policies except for a flyer posted on a bulletin board this month.

To help combat the costs of changing insurance policies, Kroger has promised a one-time $1,000 payment to compensate affected employees, but Young says they still have to pay taxes on that sum, and it will not be paid out to employees until February 2014, leaving them with one month of unaccounted health insurance.

“How long do they think that will last when you go out and try to find insurance for your spouse?”

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  • Mike B

    There will be insurance available through the health exchanges, with noone with higher rates or left out because of preexisting conditions. It will be subsidized heavily for people who have low incomes. There will be at least two nonprofit options available in each state for people who no longer want to give 20% of their money to CEOs.

  • Mindy Coen

    Your wrong Mike ,,,,, the care that you will get from these so-called exchanges will not be the same care one would get from insurance ,,,, Even though this is hurting my family in many more ways … I will be content when I see people faces when they try to get the healthcare they THINK Obama is giving them cost way more than what they are paying now with less quality …. instead of giving 20% to a company you will be giving 50% to a government that cant even run the DMV or postal service correctly ….. I am glad you have so much faith in the lies that you have been told ….. when the water clears and you see what you are left with .. you will only have yourself to blame for blinding following a loser president

  • Pauline

    Before you blindly call someone wrong, maybe you should back up what you say with some facts. I am a republican. But I have been sick of the huge profits the insurance companies have made while denying my employees’ claims for stupid reasons. I have read the 926 pages of the certified and passed bill. It stops the unethical tactics that the insurance companies have used for years. That is a Fact. So, become more informed.

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  • Mindy Coen

    I am very informed and affected by a bill that was passed without being read or understood by many who are supposed to be so highly educated ,,Never in my 43 years have I had a claim denied … and I could AFFORD to have my husband on my healthcare ,,,,, Since OBAMAFRAUD has been signed … I have had to drop my husband off my insurance my rates DOUBLED the same year he used his magic pen and sucked the American people ….. and now my daughter is losing her healthcare…. A true Republican does not want or agree with Obama or his false lies to America …. I am living with the fallout of his policies are you ?

  • Guest

    I find it truly disgusting that these large corporations are blaming Obama and the Affordable Care Act for things they’ve been doing for years.

    I live in central Kentucky and have family members who work for Kroger. They stopped providing health insurance for employees’ spouses in Kentucky about 8-10 years ago. If the spouse was employed and their employer offered health insurance, they were not allowed to remain of the Kroger employees health plan. The spouse is required to take the health insurance offered by their employer no matter the cost. In some cases, it was more lucrative for the spouse to quit rather than pay the premiums to purchase insurance from their employer. As I said, this started 8-10 years ago before the Affordable Care Act was even a twinkle in Obama’s eye.

  • itsjustme

    Did health insurance premium costs increase before Obamacare? You bet your a _ _ they did. From 1998 to 2008, health insurance premiums increased 130+%. Health insurance premiums increased greatly before Obamacare. Now are you really telling us that you are dense enough to believe that premiums wouldn’t have continued to increase if the Affordable Care Act had not passed?

  • itsjustme

    Question. Did insurance premiums go up before Obamacare? Of course they did. In fact, from 1998-2008, insurance premiums increased 130%.

    Next question. Are you really so dense as to suggest that if Obamacare had not passed, insurance premiums would not have ever increased again?

    If your health insurance premiums doubled in 2010, it was because of something other than Obamacare. Few parts of Obamacare are even in force yet. The individual mandate does not go into effect until 2014. The employer mandate does not go into effect until 2015. Also, Obamacare only affects about 1% of businesses. Google “obamacare will only affect 1% if businesses” and read the CNN Money article that comes up. Companies are telling their employees they are doing all these things because of Obamacare because they know most are too dumb to inform themselves of the facts. And you seem to prove them right.

    For instance – this very article states, “The Affordable Care Act mandates companies with 50 employees or more
    provide health insurance to employees who work 30 hours or more per week.” Kroger already provides health care insurance to part time employees no matter how many hours they work. The only requirement is that they be available for work anytime.

    Kroger also wants to give the idea that they are dropping spouses because of Obamacare. BS – plain and simple. They quite allowing spouses to stay on employees’ health plans 8-10 years ago in Kentucky. If the spouse was employed and if their employer offered insurance, the spouse could not stay on the Kroger employees insurance. They were dropped from Kroger’s plan and required to take the insurance their employer offered no matter how much it cost them. That was 8-10 years ago – before the Affordable Care Act was even a twinkle in Obama’s eye.

    If your insurance company or employer raised your premiums and lies to you about the reason why, there’s not a lot you can do. But you can at least inform yourself so you don’t spread their lies for them.

  • Jessica L. S.

    If this becomes a Kroger company wide policy, I will have to reconsider giving them my business. I can understand costs of health insurance are going up, but this is utterly ridiculous to do this to spouses.

  • Jessica L. S.

    insurance is and has been expensive, with or without Obamacare. If a person couldn’t afford insurance through the company they worked for or on their own, they sure as heck aren’t going to be able to next year, regardless of the “exchanges” available. insurance is simply expensive. for many, they will have to set up payment plans for the care they get, especially if they can’t afford the insurance policy itself.

  • Allen

    Very much not true. It won’t be subsidized at all for the uncovered spouse since the employee is offered acceptable coverage. This spouse will have to pay full freight for individual coverage.

  • Chris Poland

    IMO, all these companies care about is money. They cut health care to save money. You want them to change (or not change in this case in terms of keeping spousal health care) then boycott them. If you don’t hit their wallet they don’t care about you, it’s as simple as that. Consider that your free market tool to impact change.. if you can’t pull that off then corporations will continue this trend.

  • TimeToCleanHouse

    The union leadership sold out its members again.

  • TimeToCleanHouse

    DMV is state run. And Indiana has the worst government employees.

  • TimeToCleanHouse

    Why don’t you fight against the Patriot Act? It attacks the US Constitution and will only be stopped if Congress overturns it. Not one person read that bill. And the bill was presented for consideration 2 days after the attack. A 900+ page bill.

    You complaint about health insurance is based on a false premise. ACA is not yet in effect. So it has no impact on the greed of companies in the US cutting insurance.

  • guest

    They’re not going to give their employees a “more stable pension fund, various pay increases” with those pay increases comes hours cut. My husband worked for schnucks for 7 years before they underhandedly sold them out to Kroger only for Kroger to screw him and the rest of the employees. He had great benefits at the time then instead of Kroger just taking the employees that schnucks had in their stores at the time made them go through the process all over again and start all over. Now he’s waited 2 years to get back his insurance and the pay that he was getting only to have his hours cut. Hoping to be able to get me on insurance because of my past health problems since my current job does not offer insurance. But I find “various pay increases” a bunch of bull. It’s so they can save money for themselves.

    This disgusts me. The Union is NOTHING they do not help the employees like they should they screw them and sell them out.

  • Tom Webb

    Yeah half of that $1000 will be taxes, because it will be considered a bonus

  • Shane Jones

    Kroger sucks! Managers lie, steal, & get away with it! Pat Johnson at 009 missouri city texas is prime example

  • Shane Jones

    So it’s thanks for your hard work, now fuck you!!! Well, fuck kroger

  • Voice of Reason

    DO you really expect anything else from a company that is so dishonest with its employees? Any raises received as a result of the new contract have to be weighed against the cost of health care for spouse, and possibly dependents(children)–the article didn’t say if benefits were kept for dependent children! Clearly workers pay for any Contract”improvements” with losses in other parts of the contract! For all you thinking about voting in November2014 election, Make sure you support the candidates that support Labor, and the Middle class!! This means voting for The
    Democratic candidate most of the time! It is the republicans who have been waging a war on the middle class and women since the 1980s! Any working man–you must be honest with yourself and where you are in life–is a damn, damn fool if he votes Republican! J

  • Voice of Reason

    One can’t always blame the Union leadership! Why did the damn fools vote for the contract? Did workers pay attention to negotiations? The truly sad thing is Health care cost are the fastest rising part of the budget for most families! Workers traded health care benefits for spouses and maybe children for pennies! As time marches on, this will hit family budgets HARD! Workers have to wake up and take responsibility for themselves! You have to reject bad contracts. Most importantly, you must pay attention to what is happening in your business, the nation’s businesses, and politics! They have no one to blame but themselves for the loss of benefits!!

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