Wal-Mart Backs Employer Health Insurance Mandate
The AP reports that Wal-Mart, "once criticized for less than generous employee benefits, has embraced President Barack Obama's call for requiring all large employers to offer health insurance to their workers. The move, joined by a major labor union that sometimes assails Wal-Mart, could add momentum to Obama's push for far-reaching changes to the nation's health care system, which Congress is weighing." The AP notes: "The letter was also signed by Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, which has more than a million members and counts more U.S. health workers than any other union. Also signing it was John Podesta, who headed Obama's transition team and is president of the Center for American Progress."
The AP reports: "The letter could give a push to two efforts: Wal-Mart's bid to improve its image regarding worker treatment, and Obama's plan to change the nation's health care system, including insuring virtually all Americans and controlling costs. In recent years, SEIU and others have criticized Wal-Mart for charging relatively high premiums to its employees for health insurance, and forcing them to wait up to two years for coverage." The AP also notes: "The company has a legacy of backing conservative politicians and demanding strict efficiencies in every aspect of its business, including employee benefits. It has tried to improve employee relations in recent years, and has hired some prominent Democrats to broaden its political base" (Babington, 6/30).
The Washington Post's Daily Dose also reports that the letter "does not detail how the requirement would be structured or what sort of penalties could be imposed on companies that fail to offer insurance. Nevertheless, today's announcement following a meeting at the White House with chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, buttresses administration arguments that rising health costs are an integral component to the weakened economy and hamper global competitiveness."
The Post also noted that the letter stated: "From a business perspective, health reform could not be more critical. ... Premiums are expected to rise by 20 percent in less than four years, according to research by professors at Harvard University-costing 3.5 million workers their jobs, and cutting insured workers' average annual incomes by $1,700." The Post also notes: "Some employers and business groups have spoken against Democratic plans to include an employer mandate in comprehensive reform packages. Just three years ago, Wal-Mart fought efforts in states such as Maryland that would have required large companies to offer health insurance to workers" (Connolly, 6/30). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.