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Associated Press

NEW YORK - Wal-Mart Stores plans to eliminate health insurance coverage for some of its part-time U.S. employees in a move aimed at controlling the nation's largest private employer's rising health care costs.

Wal-Mart said that starting Jan. 1, it will no longer offer health insurance to employees who average less than 30 hours a week. The move affects 30,000 employees, or about 5 percent of Wal-Mart's total part-time workforce.

The announcement follows similar decisions by Target, Home Depot and others to completely eliminate health insurance benefits for part-time employees.

"We had to make some tough decisions," said Sally Welborn, Wal-Mart's senior vice president of benefits.

She said she didn't know how much Wal-Mart will save by dropping part-time employees but added that the company will use a third-party organization to help part-time workers find insurance alternatives.

Wal-Mart is among the last of its peers to cut health insurance for some part-time workers. In 2013, 62 percent of large retail chains didn't offer health care benefits to any of its part-time workers, according to Mercer, a global consulting company. That's up from 56 percent in 2009. "Retailers who offer part-time benefits are more of an exception than the rule," said Beth Umland, director of research for health and benefits at Mercer.

Wal-Mart also is increasing employees' premiumsto counter rising health care costs. Wal-Mart said that for a basic plan, of which 40 percent of its workers are enrolled, premiums will go up to $21.90 per pay period, up from $18.40, starting Jan. 1.