WA Bill Looks To End Corporate Health Care Mooching

February 20, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A proposal floating around the Washington State legislature looks to recoup money from large employers in the state that are cadging off the state's taxpayer-supported health care.

Seattle Democrat Eileen Cody proposed House Bill 2785 that would require employers with 50 or more full time employees to pay a fee – equal to the cost of covering someone under Basic Health – if they do not provide health care to workers. “It’s a fairness issue,” Cody said, noting that businesses that do not offer health benefits enjoy a competitive advantage over businesses that do. “Employers who are doing the right thing should not be subsidizing employers who aren’t,” according to a NewsRx.com report.

The so-called “Wal-Mart bill,” tries to close a loophole in a state law designed to make health insurance more affordable for small businesses. That program provides state-subsidized health care for people who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford health care on their own.

The problem as the bill’s sponsor sees it is that large companies able to pay for health insurance services of their employees are exploiting the law’s intent by not providing affordable health care options to workers.

Wal-Mart takes exception to the generalization that the company does not provide affordable health care options. “Our critics have perpetuated the myth that Wal-Mart does not offer affordable health care options,” Allison Garrett, vice president of benefits compliance and planning for Wal-Mart said addressing a group of the bill’s proponents. “We believe we offer a good benefits package.”

Garrett said of the 13,000 Wal-Mart workers in the state, more than half (51%) are enrolled in one of the company’s health plans, which have premiums starting at $30.50 a month for a single worker. She said 39% get health insurance somewhere else, and 10% are uninsured.