Bill Introduced To Require States To List Employers Whose Employees Receive Public Health Coverage
Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday introduced legislation known as the Health Care Accountability Act, which would require states to publicly disclose the names of companies with 50 or more employees who receive government-funded health coverage, the Washington Post reports (Joyce, Washington Post, 6/23).
The bill is "intended to spotlight large employers such as Wal-Mart that rely on state aid for employee medical coverage," according to the Bloomberg/Boston Globe. More than 600,000 of Wal-Mart's 1.26 million workers in the United States receive health coverage from government programs or through a spouse's employer, according to the legislators (Bloomberg/Boston Globe, 6/23).
Wal-Mart provides full-time benefits to employees who work at least 34 hours per week. Employees must wait 180 days before they receive health benefits. For families, premiums range from about $155 a month with a $1,000 annual deductible and access to Wal-Mart's network of physicians, to nearly $300 a month with a deductible of $350 and access to in-network physicians, according to the company Web site (Washington Post, 6/23).
Fifteen states currently report information on which employers have a significant number of employees covered by state health programs (Bloomberg/ Boston Globe, 6/23). At least 27 states are considering or plan to introduce health care disclosure legislation (Washington Post, 6/23).
"The issues are much broader than Wal-Mart," Wal-Mart spokesperson Dan Fogelman said, adding, "Our nation faces a health care crisis, and unfairly targeting individual companies is simply not the answer" (New York Daily News, 6/23). He said, "We encourage transparency as long as the collection of information includes all employers in the U.S." (Bloomberg/Boston Globe, 6/23).
Kennedy said, "Every worker in America is paying a part of their taxes to pay for Wal-Mart" (Washington Post, 6/23).
Corzine said Wal-Mart's employee health benefits represents "the ultimate in turning your back on responsibility to society."
Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said, "It's not only morally bankrupt, it is un-American for Wal-Mart ... not to be able to give its workers better health insurance than our public safety net" (Barton, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 6/23).
USA Today on Thursday examined state legislation regarding employer health benefits (Armour, USA Today, 6/23).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.