CT Measure Proposes Health Coverage Requirements

March 9, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Connecticut employers would either have to provide health-care coverage to all full-time workers or pay into a government health coverage buying fund, according to a new legislative measure introduced this week.

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.