The bill states that companies who employ 20 or more individuals would be required to provide Pennsylvania with annual reports detailing how many employees are receiving Medical Assistance, according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The company employs 40,000 Pennsylvanians, of whom a significant percentage receive taxpayer-subsidized care, instead of being covered by a plan offered to them through Wal-Mart, the report says, adding that some critics say such costs could reach $30 million annually.
“Wal-Mart is the most notorious abuser of Medical Assistance programs nationwide based on states that have done studies,” said Representative Mike Veon (D., Beaver), a cosponsor of the bill, in the Inquirer’s report “We need to find a way to encourage or require employers to provide affordable health-care insurance.”
Such bills “are nothing more than a political attempt by organized labor to make Wal-Mart less competitive in certain states,” said Nate Hurst, a Wal-Mart spokesman.
The company argues that more than half (56%) of its employees are covered by the employer-sponsored health insurance program, for which premiums begin at $40 a month for single workers and $155 for families, and the other 44% are covered by other plans, either public or private, the Inquirer reported. However the critics say that the plan has both a too high deductible of $1,000 and a waiting period that is too long (six months for full-time employees and two years for those employed part-time) to make the coverage accessible to those who need it.
Although Wal-Mart has been involved in a range of lawsuits over the past year, this appears to be the first time legislation is being enacted against the retail giant. Maryland’s General Assembly passed a similar proposal last month, one that would force employers with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8% of payroll on health benefits – or put the money directly into the state’s health program for the poor. Wal-Mart would allegedly be the only company affected by such legislation, which the governor has said he will veto (See Wal-Mart Questions MD Growth Because of Health Care Proposal ).
Last week, a bill was introduced in New Jersey, also appearing to target Wal-Mart, which employs 12,000 in the Garden State, mandating that companies with more than 10,000 employees have to choose between increasing their coverage of employees or paying $2.45 per worker per hour above wages into the state Medicaid program.
A bill has also been introduced in Connecticut ( CT Measure Proposes Health Coverage Requirements ), while a a similar measure approved by California lawmakers in 2003 failed to get voter approval (See Proposition on Company Health Coverage Waits on California Ballot ).