Supporters Praise Impact of Overturned Maryland Law
A Maryland law that would have required Wal-Mart Stores to increase spending on health care for employees, although overturned on Monday by a federal judge in Baltimore, "pressured the giant retailer to offer cheaper health plans and provide benefits to more part-time employees and prodded more states to take up health care reforms," according to supporters, the Baltimore Sun reports (Green, Baltimore Sun, 7/21).
The law, enacted on Jan. 12, would have required employers in Maryland with 10,000 or more employees to spend at least 8% of payroll costs on health care or contribute to a state fund for the uninsured. Wal-Mart was the only employer in Maryland affected by the law.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz ruled that the Maryland law violated the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (California Healthline, 7/20).
In recent months, Wal-Mart has offered a number of new health plans to expand access to care for employees, company spokesman Dan Fogelman said, adding, "When our open enrollment period opens this fall, many associates will see even lower premiums available than what they're paying today."
Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative and a supporter of the Maryland law, said that legislation contributed to the expansion of health plans offered by Wal-Mart. He said, "It's not because of the legal impact of the law but because of the debate around the law that Wal-Mart has found it necessary to expand health care."
According to the Sun, the expansion of health plans offered by Wal-Mart "became a potent lobbying tool for the company as it tried to stop Maryland's law from spreading to other states."
However, Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R), who vetoed the Maryland law prior to an override vote by the state Legislature, said, "The Wal-Mart bill didn't really provide health care to anyone" (Green, Baltimore Sun, 7/21).