Wal-Mart: Health costs drag down profits

Wal-Mart on Thursday blamed a recent profit slump on rising U.S. healthcare costs.

The company lowered its guidance estimate for earnings per share from a range between $5.10 and $5.45 to a new range of $4.90 to $5.15 during a conference call with investors.


Charles Holley, Wal-Mart's executive vice president and chief financial officer, said that's because of "headwinds from higher healthcare costs in the U.S. than previously estimated."

Wal-Mart said its healthcare costs have increased $180 million, compared with last fiscal year. In 2014, Wal-Mart predicted its healthcare costs would be $500 million.

"This increase is a result of higher enrollment by our U.S. associates and families, as well as enrollment cost inflation," Holley added. "Enrollment does fluctuate with our hiring."

It comes as Americans have flocked to healthcare plans for fear they'd be taxed due to the Affordable Care Act.

But Holley didn't just jab the healthcare system. He had some beef with Congress, too.

"This guidance also assumes the effective tax rate will be around 34 percent for the third quarter," Holley told investors. "The annual effective tax rate is projected to be between 32 and 34 percent."

"The actual rate will depend on a number of factors, including our performance, discrete items and pending U.S. Congressional actions regarding the extension of certain tax legislation," he added, not specifying which legislation.