30 States Considering Legislation To Address Employer Spending on Health Insurance Coverage
Lawmakers in 30 states are preparing to introduce bills that would require large corporations to increase their spending on employee health insurance, the New York Times reports. Although the bills vary slightly in different states, most would require that the largest private employers in a state devote 8% to 11% of their payroll to health insurance or contribute a fee to the state fund.
Lawmakers in Maryland were the first to introduce such legislation and passed a measure in 2005 forcing large employers to insure more of their employees, but the governor vetoed the bill, which awaits a legislative override.
According to the Times, AFL-CIO on Thursday is expected to announce the 30-state effort, which "underscores state lawmakers' growing frustration with the progress of federal health care reform and the success of a union effort to turn Wal-Mart into a symbol of everything that is wrong with the system." According to the Times, many lawmakers say that many Wal-Mart workers cannot afford health insurance and many of them either forgo coverage or are enrolled in state-sponsored health programs.
While "[n]one of the bills are explicitly directed at Wal-Mart ... because of its size -- Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in many states -- nearly all of them would require the retailer to pay more for employee health care," the Times reports.
The initiative also is supported by the Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, as well as Wal-Mart Watch and Wake Up Wal-Mart.
Naomi Walker, director of state legislative programs at AFL-CIO, said, "We know that Congress is not going to take action any time soon. So states are finding their own way to get at this problem."
Sarah Clark, spokesperson for Wal-Mart, said, "This is just the latest negative attack from Washington union leaders," adding, "These bills will do nothing to address the enormous number of uninsured or control the soaring costs of health care" (Barbaro, New York Times, 1/5).