REI to Offer Healthcare to All Employees Next Year

This article originally appeared on Outside

Starting in 2023, REI is set to sharply expand its employee medical coverage. The co-op announced today that, beginning January 1, every REI employee--barring those who have existing coverage through other employers--will be eligible for healthcare under the new REI Access Plan, which provides comprehensive insurance through Aetna.

The coverage will be available even to part-time staffers, no matter how many hours they work per week. At national companies with workforces in the thousands, that kind of offering is exceedingly rare. (REI employs about 15,000 people across the U.S.) Enrollment will be available after just three months of employment, where previously the company required staff to work at least 20 hours a week over a 12-month evaluation period to qualify for any kind of coverage.

"Basically, we just believe that everyone should have access to healthcare and this is something we can offer to every REI employee," Halley Knigge, REI's director of communications, told Outside.

Knigge said that, earlier this year, feedback from an employee pay and benefits survey included a call for access to healthcare enrollment sooner after the date of hire, and with fewer restrictions. In July, REI CEO Eric Artz sent an internal letter to all REI employees, stating, "Your feedback on our benefits program was clear--you highly value our medical benefits but want access to them faster and with fewer restrictions. We agree."

Knigge said that while many of REI's employees build long-term careers at the retailer, others--including students and retirees--want to work limited hours but still need health coverage as part of their employment.

"We have a lot of employees who want to work at REI but who want to work fewer hours than the previous 20 hours needed to qualify for health care," Knigge said. "Now, no matter how few hours people work, they have access to coverage."

The REI Access Plan offers comprehensive medical coverage, including free preventive care with in-network providers and access to a Health Savings Account (HSA). The new plan is extended only to employees, not their dependents. Employees must work 20 hours or more per week to qualify for healthcare plans that extend to dependents.

Employees enrolled in the REI Access Plan can expect to pay around $700 a year in premiums, with REI paying about $6,800, according to the company's website. The in-network individual deductible for the plan is $1,800, including prescription drug costs. Once the deductible is met, employees pay 20 percent of the cost of physician visits, emergency room visits, and other medical services, with REI covering the other 80 percent. The in-network out-of-pocket maximum is $3,600, though there is no out-of-pocket maximum for out-of-network services.

The healthcare offering is part of a $50 million expenditure REI has made this year to bring across-the-board pay raises and healthcare coverage to employees, Knigge said.

"Our employees are REI, so anything we can do to increase benefits and opportunities is in line with what we're about," Knigge added. "It's about people, not hours."

Enrollment for the new program begins this month.

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