Wal-Mart Endorses Employer Mandate in Health Care Reform

July 1, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, announced in a letter to President Obama that it will support a requirement that all businesses provide health insurance coverage as part of sweeping health reform legislation, the Washington Post reports.

“We are for shared responsibility,” Wal-Mart President and CEO Mike Duke wrote. “Not every business can make the same contributions, but everyone must make some contribution.” The endorsement represents a dramatic reversal for the retail giant.

Conflict over Wal-Mart’s health care benefits practices and whether a disproportionate number of its workers were enrolled in state and federal health care programs culminated with an effort in Maryland to pass a law some dubbed the ‘Wal-Mart Health Care Bill’ requiring large employers to dedicate a certain percent of payroll to employee health care benefits. Wal-Mart fought the effort (see MD Abandons ‘Wal-Mart’ Health Care Bill Fight ).

Since then, Wal-Mart has made efforts to beef up its benefits (see Wal-Mart to Expand Employee Health Care Efforts with Wellness Programs ) and has reported an increase in the number of employees covered (see Wal-Mart Announces Increase in Employees with Health Care Coverage ).

Obama has said that if a new health care reform bill requires employers to provide health insurance coverage, such a mandate should not apply to small employers (see Obama Makes Suggestions on Health Care Reform ).

The letter was also signed by Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, and John Podesta, chief of the Obama transition and head of the Center for American Progress.

The letter can be viewed here .