Christian Science Monitor Profiles ‘Pay-or-Play’ Health Insurance Mandates for Employers
The Christian Science Monitor on Wednesday examined the increasing popularity of "controversial" state health care proposals that are based on "pay-or-play" mandates for employers. A pay-or-play mandate requires businesses to provide employees with health insurance or pay into a state-run fund that will provide the coverage. While businesses once saw pay or play systems as "ideologically offensive unfunded mandate[s]," recent initiatives in New York, California and Washington state show that the idea is gaining favor among an "increasing number of traditional employers," which are facing rising health care costs and competition from companies that do not provide insurance, the Monitor reports.
New York City Council member Christine Quinn on Tuesday introduced a pay-or-play health care bill that would affect all employers in the hotel, large grocery, building services, industrial laundry and construction industries. The proposal, called the New York City Health Care Security Act, would maintain health coverage for 152,000 employees and extend it to 60,000 workers who are uninsured. In addition, California voters in November will vote on a referendum to determine the fate of a new law that will require certain businesses to provide their employees' health insurance or pay into a state fund that would do so.
Quinn said, "We have introduced this bill at the request of businesses, the 70% of folks who are out there and doing the right thing by providing insurance," adding, "We have an obligation to protect that majority, not the minority that don't offer the appropriate benefits that we believe they should." The legislation has received support from more than 90 local businesses, including Gristedes supermarkets, one of the city's major supermarket chains. Gristedes CEO John Catsimatidis said the bill would help companies protect quality jobs by not allowing competitors to be "irresponsible employers, not providing health and other benefits."
Paul Sonn, associate counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, said, "The business support for this New York campaign really shows reaction by responsible employers to the spreading Wal-Mart model of low wages and few benefits." However, opponents of pay or play systems say the plans could raise costs, bankrupt some businesses and impede on employers' freedom to run their companies free of excessive government intervention (Marks, Christian Science Monitor, 9/29).