AFL-CIO To Lobby for Employer Health Insurance Laws in 31 States
AFL-CIO on Thursday announced an effort to pursue legislation in 31 states that would require large corporations to spend a percentage of their payroll on employee health insurance, Bloomberg/South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports (Hallam, Bloomberg/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 1/6).
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 a state insurance fund. Although none of the bills specifically targets Wal-Mart, the retailer is the largest private employer in many states and would be affected by the legislation in most cases.
Lawmakers in Maryland were the first to introduce such legislation and passed a measure in 2005 requiring large employers to insure more of their employees, but the governor vetoed the bill, which awaits a legislative override (California Healthline, 1/5).
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said the so-called "Fair Share Health Care" bills are based on the Maryland legislation, which would force companies with more than 10,000 workers to spend a minimum of 8% of their payroll on health benefits or make payments to the state health insurance program (Snowbeck, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1/6). He said, "Our health care system is broken, but it didn't just split apart. Big companies such as Wal-Mart are pulling it apart at taxpayers' expense" (Rose, Chicago Tribune, 1/6).
Sweeney added, "We cannot afford to stand by and wait for the federal government to take action. So we're going to take it on state by state" (Karla, Hartford Courant, 1/6).
Wal-Mart spokesperson Sarah Clark said more than three-quarters of the company's 1.3 million employees have health insurance through work, their families or Medicare, adding that the bills would do nothing to help the uninsured. She added, "They should focus on solving the nation's health care challenges, not attacking companies that provide families with access to affordable health insurance."
Bruce Josten, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the bills would make it harder for companies to survive because U.S. companies already have to pay for health care costs, unlike competitors in Europe or Asia. He said, "Why are we going to put this yoke on corporate America's neck? This is a problem for everybody in the country" (Freking, AP/Contra Costa Times, 1/6).
APM's "Marketplace" on Thursday reported on the push. The segment includes comments from Connecticut state Rep. David McClusky (D) and Sweeney (Wicai, "Marketplace," APM, 1/5). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.