The Benefits Divide: Health Care Purchasing in Retail versus Other Sectors

September/October 2002
Maxwell J, et al.

September/October 2002--Health Affairs

This paper is the first to compare health care purchasing in the retail versus other sectors of the Fortune 500. Employing millions of low-wage workers, the retail sector is the largest employer of uninsured workers in the economy. We found that retail companies are using the same competitive bidding process that other companies use to obtain a given level of coverage for the lowest possible cost. However, they are more price oriented than other Fortune 500 companies are. The most striking disparity lies in the nearly fivefold difference in offer rates for health care coverage. This shows that the economy's bifurcation in health benefits extends even to the nation's largest companies.