Health care problems
Health care problems

After appeasing critics in recent years by offering better health care benefits to its employees, Walmart last year substantially scaled back coverage for part-time workers and raised premiums for many full-time employees.

It couldn't come at a worse time. High unemployment continued weighing on many families, many only able to find part-time work.

Walmart, the nation's largest private employer, cited rising costs when it told employees that all future part-timers who work less than 24 hours a week on average will no longer qualify for any of the company's health insurance plans.

The move represented a marked departure from only a few years ago when Walmart expanded health coverage amid growing criticisms from workers and state governments, including lawmakers in Maryland who in 2005 passed legislation effectively requiring that the company boost health care spending.

By Nin-Hai Tseng - Last updated April 24 2012: 4:32 PM ET