MD Abandons 'Wal-Mart' Health Care Bill Fight

April 17, 2007 ( - Maryland state officials have abandoned a two-year effort to get Wal-Mart Stores to pay more for employee health care.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced Monday that the state would not challenge a federal court ruling striking down Maryland’s “Fair Share” health care act.

Gansler said at the announcement he concluded an appeal was likely to fail, according to a Baltimore Sun report. According to the state’s top lawyer, litigation could take years and delay other efforts to more directly extend health coverage to the 800,000 Marylanders who lack health insurance.

The so-called Wal-Mart law would not necessarily have reduced the number of uninsured in Maryland. It would have required all businesses with more than 10,000 employees in the state that dedicated less than 8% of their payroll to health care to increase spending to that figure or pay the difference to the state. Only Wal-Mart, which has approximately 16,000 employees in Maryland, would have been subject to enforcement under the law’s minimum spending requirements, according to news reports.

But, before the law could take effect, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a trade group of which Wal-Mart is a member, sued (See  Wal-Mart, Other Retailers Challenge MD Health Care Law ). It successfully argued in federal court in Baltimore (See Judge: ERISA Trumps MD ‘Wal-Mart’ Health Care Law ) and in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (See  Appellate Ruling Affirms Maryland’s ‘Wal-Mart’ Health Law Dismissal ) that the law violated the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which prohibits states from regulating benefit plans.

“Fair Share had a great impact in the state and on the nation,” Gansler said, according to the Sun. “Today, Wal-Mart offers health care to more of its part-time employees and has drastically reduced co-payments for prescription drugs.”

Since then, the spotlight has shifted to other states such as Massachusetts (See New Bay State Rules Would Excuse Most Cos. from Per-Worker Health Coverage Fee ) and California (See Schwarzenegger Vetoes Health Care Bill Aimed at Big Employers ), which have attempted to enact universal health care.