Says Proposal That Would Set Minimum Spending Level In State Doesn't Reduce Costs
February 17, 2006
By RITU KALRA, Courant Staff Writer
Wal-Mart's public relations machine
fired an opening salvo Thursday against a proposal that would require
the retailing giant to spend more on employee health benefits.
In a two-page "periodic fact sheet"
that was sent to some state legislators, businesses and media, Wal-Mart
criticized the proposal as poor public policy that imposes "arbitrary
mandates" on employers while failing to reduce spiraling health
The proposal, which will probably be
introduced by the co-chairmen of the General Assembly's labor committee
later this session, is similar in concept to a bill aimed squarely
at Wal-Mart that recently passed in Maryland.
Comparable measures suffered defeat
in New Hampshire and Washington earlier this week.
Called "fair share" health
care, Connecticut's measure would require employers with more than
5,000 employees to spend a minimum amount on employee health coverage
or pay into a state fund to help defray the costs borne by taxpayers
to support the uninsured.
Wal-Mart's two-page memo criticized
the proposal, in part, for its narrow reach.
The retailer has about 9,500 employees
in the state, a large portion of whom do not receive the employer's
Connecticut, meanwhile, has an estimated
196,000 to 382,000 uninsured residents.
Considering the total number of people
without health coverage in the state, the memo said, "the measure
neglects the thousands of uninsured Connecticuters who don't work
Supporters of the proposal agreed,
but cautioned that that logic shouldn't let Wal-Mart off the hook.
The retailer tops a state list of companies whose employees rely
on Connecticut's HUSKY health program, at a cost of $5.4 million
Nationwide, less than half of Wal-Mart
workers receive company health insurance, and 46 percent of its
employees' children are either uninsured or on public assistance.
"Here's a company that's using
taxpayer dollars as part of their business plan so they don't have
to pay for health care for a significant portion of their workers,"
said House Majority Leader Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden. "They
should set a higher example."
From Wal-Mart's perspective, however,
the measure misses the point.
"We clearly agree that health
care is an issue in our country, but we feel that bills like this
do very little to solve what is a much larger problem," said
Daphne Moore, Wal-Mart's director of public affairs.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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