Let's Hope This Spreads

Good for Maryland, and good for the Democrats who pushed this issue.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Maryland legislators voted Thursday to enact a first-in-the-nation requirement that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spend more on employee health care. The measure, touted as a money-saver for the state-supported Medicaid program, takes effect despite the governor's veto of the bill.

As has been documented extensively by lots of people, Wal-Mart Watch among others, Wal-Mart has a tendency to dump their workers on state health care systems, all the while raking in billions in profits every year. Wal-Mart, of course, doesn't like this bill, and neither do Maryland Republicans.
A Wal-Mart executive called the bill a poorly worded mandate for a single company. Wal-Mart spokeswoman Mia Masten said Thursday that the bill "could be the beginning of a slippery slope."

"We believe everyone should have access to affordable health insurance, although this legislation does nothing to accomplish that," said Masten, who said the retailer may partially pull out of Maryland if the bill becomes law.

She said Wal-Mart was unfairly singled out because of "partisan politics" and that Medicaid's problems go beyond the behavior of one company.


But House Republican Leader George Edwards called the measure an unwarranted intrusion into private enterprise.

"If you don't want to work for Wal-Mart, no one's twisting your arms. Go somewhere else and work," Edwards said.

Now, Wal-Mart, despite their executive's protestations to the contrary, was not singled out as a corporation. Had any other major business done as crappy a job in providing health care, they'd be dunned by this law as well--and it is possible that some other corporations may try to use this law as an excuse to drop their contributions (although if the market hasn't done it yet, I don't see this making a big difference).

Wal-Mart has said that they may consider pulling out of Maryland, and if they drop below 10,000 employees in the state, they won't be forced to pony up a meager 8% of their payroll either to their employees or to the state. I don't know how many employees Wal-Mart has in Maryland, (If I read the article more closely, I'd have seen that the number is 17,000) but if this means they have to close a store or two, is that a terrible thing? Local businesses probably won't bitch too loudly, I'll bet. Wal-Mart will pony up the cash--the amount of profit they'd lose from reducing the number of Maryland stores to where they would only have 10k workers far outweighs their health care expenses.

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