As the 800-pound gorilla of retailers, Wal-Mart made national headlines when it announced on Tuesday that it was cutting the health benefits for its 30,000 employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week.

A company blog post put the move down to rising healthcare costs, but the 30-hour cut-off gives a clue as to the real cause – President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform.

Under the Affordable Care Act, large companies are required, starting this January, to provide subsidised healthcare for every employee who works 30-hours a week or more.

As the Atlantic’s David A Graham notes, many of the law’s critics said the result would be that large companies cut the hours worked by their employees to fewer than 30 a week. Instead what appears to be happening is that big retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot and Walgreens are simply doing away with the health benefits of their part-time workers entirely.

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