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Walmart tries out new health-care benefits

Walmart will test a variety of new health-care programs for some of its workers next year, aiming to provide easier access and better care while also reducing its expenses.

The nation’s biggest private employer will use a data-analytics company to connect workers with select local doctors in a few regions, expand its telehealth program in other areas and offer health-care “concierges” to act as a single point of contact for staff in North Carolina and South Carolina, according to a statement Thursday.

The company is also adding a $35 co-pay for doctor visits in its most-used medical plan, and providing discounted gym memberships.

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The steps, which take effect in January, are the latest example of how Walmart has sweetened the benefits offered to its 1.5 million U.S. employees, after weathering years of criticism that it shortchanged them. The moves include benefits ranging from expanding parental leave to relaxing its dress code.

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— Bloomberg News

ENERGY

Struggling coal giant fails to pay lenders

Murray Energy, the U.S. coal giant that had pressed the Trump administration for help averting bankruptcy, may be headed toward default.

The largest closely held coal mining company in America failed to make multiple payments to lenders this week, the company said in a statement Wednesday. Creditors have agreed not to take legal action until Oct. 14, buying Murray some time to figure out how to shore up its balance sheet, the St. Clairsville, Ohio-based company said.

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Murray Energy is struggling to stay afloat, along with the rest of America’s coal operators, as cheap natural gas and renewable energy resources cut into coal’s share of the U.S. power market. At least four mining firms, including Cloud Peak Energy and Blackjewel, have gone bankrupt this year, laying bare the decline of a fuel that once accounted for more than half of all U.S. power generation. Today it produces less than 25 percent.

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— Bloomberg News

Also in Business

Starbucks is giving farmers a cushion against the blow of tumbling coffee prices, a move that could also protect supplies of the high-quality beans the company needs. The world's largest coffee chain operator paid over 8,000 farmers in Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala a premium totaling $20 million.

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Uber is taking to the air in New York City, where users with a little cash to spare will soon be able to book helicopter flights to John F. Kennedy International Airport through its apps. The company announced its Uber Copter offer Thursday, saying flights to and from Lower Manhattan will become available to all Uber users. The roughly eight-minute flight will cost between $200 and $225 per person and include ground transportation on either side of the trip.

— From news services

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