15 January 2006

Maryland Ends Wal-Mart Subsidy

Wal-Mart is one of the biggest companies in the world. It also receives a subsidy that almost no other big business does. It let's Medicaid, the means tested government health program for the poor provide health insurance for its underpaid workers. But, not in Maryland. Maryland has overridden the Governor's veto to mandate that employers with more than 10,000 Maryland employees must spend at least 8% of its payroll on health care for employees or pay a tax to cover the costs the government incurs instead. The only employer of that size in Maryland that doesn't insure its own employees is Wal-Mart. Three other employers of that size in Maryland, John Hopkins, Giant Food and Northrop Grumman already provide health insurance, as do 99% of all empoloyers in the United States with 200 or more employees.

The proponents of the measure note that businesses that don't insure their employees burden not just the government, but other employers, driving up insurance premiums about $922 per employee per year, with bad debt and charity care that has to be covered by paying patients.

Wal-Mart just adopted some form of health insurance last month under continuing pressure from the public and has been forced by courts to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for violating labor laws related to lunch breaks and other breaks.

In contrast, Wal-Mart competitor CostCo provides health insurance and higher wages for its employees while providing customers with comparable low prices.

No comments: