According to a news report in the Hartford Courant, a
similar measure approved by California lawmakers in 2003
failed to get voter approval (See
Proposition on Company
Health Coverage Waits on California Ballot
) while New York City continues considering a similar
system for certain industries, including grocery chains and
big box retailers.
There was a bit of confusion this week over the Connecticut measure’s details. While the bill’s backers say companies with 100 or more workers would have to comply, the actual language in the proposal says it would apply to companies with as few as 50 workers. Other still missing details, according to the news report, are:
- the definition of full-time
- the waiting period before employees become eligible
- the fee for employers to pay into the state municipal employee health insurance program if they don’t offer their own comparable insurance
- the number of employers who would be affected
- which agency would be responsible for enforcing the statute.
The proposal came in response to a legislative
report that says the state was paying $43 million
annually for health insurance to cover workers at major
employers, led by Wal-Mart and Stop & Shop
supermarkets. Of the top 25 companies with employees
using the state’s HUSKY health insurance program, the
report said, more than half of the workers clock more
than 30 hours a week.
One issue that hasn’t been questioned is Wal-Mart’s influence on the health care debate. Of the retailer’s 9,082 state employees, 11.3% are on the HUSKY program at a cost to the state of about $5.6 million a year.
The focus on health insurance for the working poor comes as legislators consider whether to extend the HUSKY program to about 13,000 parents of poor children for three more months. The state House has already approved the legislation and the Senate was expected to pass it Wednesday. In the meantime, lawmakers are trying to determine whether to continue that coverage for the parents into the future. Extending the coverage indefinitely could cost taxpayers $54 million to $72 million a year, depending on various estimates, according to news reports.