Kentucky Moves Closer To Adopting 'Wal-Mart Bill'

February 16, 2006 ( - Encouraged by efforts in other states to pressure large employers to boost their health coverage spending, Kentucky lawmakers are calling for the state legislature to approve a bill that would require companies with more than 25,000 employees to spend at least 10% of their payroll on employee health insurance.

By far the biggest employer in the state with 38 stores, two distribution centers and seven Sam’s Club stores, Wal-Mart employs 32,249 workers. UPS, the second largest employer with 21,116 workers, would not even be affected if the bill passes, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.

The bills are in response to mounting criticism that the retail giant has been flouting its responsibilities to its employees, shifting the costs of benefits to state governments instead. Wal-Mart does offer health insurance, but critics contend that the premiums required are too hefty, giving employees no other choice but to turn to state Medicaid programs.

The Kentucky bill, which is sponsored by state Representative Melvin Henley, has been approved by the House Banking and Insurance Committee, with a 15-4 vote, and three members abstaining. It is still not final, as the bill must first reach a full House vote, and some lawmakers who voted in committee still have reservations, the Herald-Leader reports.

This measure is more aggressive than the Maryland bill on which it is modeled which requires employers with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8% of payroll on health care or contribute to a state Medicaid fund (See  Veto of ‘Wal-Mart Bill’ Overridden in MD Senate ). The other of such laws was passed in New York in November, and requires large, non-unionized retailers to set aside at least $3 for every hour an employee works to pay for their employees’ health-care costs (See  NewsDash November 1 ).

Kentucky is one of about 30 states where the Fair Share Health Care Act, or “Wal-Mart bills,” could be filed this year, according to news reports.

– Adrien Martin