Human Capital & Careers

Maryland Passes “Wal-Mart Health Bill”

The law could serve as a blueprint for other states.
Stephen TaubJanuary 13, 2006

Maryland law now requires Wal-Mart Stores to provide health-insurance benefits to all of its employees.

The law — which was approved after the governor’s veto was overridden — could have wide ramifications, as 30 states are mulling similar legislation, according to The Washington Post.

Legislators in 12 other states have proposed similar bills in the past year, noted The Wall Street Journal, citing the National Conference of State Legislatures. However, just 6 remain under consideration.

Under the new law, private companies in Maryland with more than 10,000 employees are required to shell out at least 8 percent of their payroll on employee health benefits, or contribute to the state’s insurance program for the poor.

Wal-Mart, which employs about 17,000 Marylanders, is the only company that is expected to be affected by the requirement since it is the only one of its size that does not meet the 8 percent spending threshold, said the Post.

The only other companies that are large enough to be covered by the legislation are Northrop Grumman Corp., Giant Food LLC, and Johns Hopkins University, reported the Journal.

Wal-Mart spokesman Nate Hurst told the paper that the votes were driven by “partisan politics” and were “never about health care.” Hurst continued: “In allowing a bad bill to become a bad law, the General Assembly took a giant step backward and placed the special interests of Washington, D.C., union leaders ahead of the well-being of the people they serve. And that’s wrong.”

Maryland’s Democrat-led General Assembly voted largely along party lines for the measure, noted the Post. “We don’t want to kill this giant. We want this giant to behave itself,” said Delegate Anne Healey (D-Prince George’s County), the lead sponsor in the House. “We want this giant not to be a bully.”

Democratic lawmakers have asserted that the bill was meant to address the fact that some of Wal-Mart’s workers are on Medicaid, driving up costs for the state’s insurance program for the poor.

Bruce Josten of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, however, told the paper that roughly 25 million of the more than 45 million Americans who do not have health insurance work for companies with 10 or fewer employees.

Wal-Mart’s Hurst added that fewer than one-half of 1 percent of the 786,000 uninsured people in Maryland work for Wal-Mart.