Wal-Mart is raising health insurance premiums and cutting benefits for thousands of workers. 

Starting January 1, bi-weekly premiums for Wal-Mart's most popular insurance plans will increase 19% to $21.90 for the company's entire U.S. workforce. The company also will stop providing health insurance to part-time employees who work less than 30 hours a week, which will affect approximately 30,000 employees, or 2% of the company's total U.S. workforce.

Wal-Mart employees are furious over the changes. 

"Most of the employees where I work are struggling as it is and to take away more of the very meager benefits we get is atrocious," said one associate who works at the West Point, Mississippi Wal-Mart store. The associate, as well as other Wal-Mart employees quoted in this article, only spoke to Business Insider on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the company.

A part-time worker at the Wentzville, Missouri store said, "While this is a cost cutting [move] for Wal-Mart, is it a slam in the face for employees. Just another thing they are taking away from them."

She said she works two jobs and has a health insurance plan with her full-time employer, so the changes won't affect her directly. 

But she's concerned about how this will impact her co-workers who are "barely and I mean barely keeping their heads above water, even after working for Wal-Mart for almost 20 years," she said.

The insurance changes follow Wal-Mart's recent decision to alter the requirements for employees uniforms, which enraged many workers who said they can't afford to buy the new clothes. 

"[First] paying for shirts, and [now] cutting part-time benefits?" said an associate at a Wausau, Wisconsin store. "Many people who are part-time need the benefits" the most, she said. 

Wal-Mart associates including full- and part-time workers make an average wage of $11.83 an hour, or nearly $25,000 annually assuming a 40-hour work week, according to the company. OUR Wal-Mart, a group that's fighting for higher wages at Wal-Mart, claims that most workers make under $9, based on data from IBISWorld and Glassdoor.com. The minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25 an hour.

In announcing the insurance changes, Wal-Mart noted that other large retailers such as Home Depot and Target have also recently eliminated benefits for part-time workers. 

"Health care costs just keep going up for all of us," Sally Welborn, Wal-Mart's senior vice president of benefits, said on a call with reporters Tuesday.

Wal-Mart also claims that its insurance premiums are more competitive than other retailers. In 2014, Wal-Mart employees paid 32% less than the industry average for contributions and out-of-pocket costs. 

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