Wal-Mart lends its support to employer health insurance mandate

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The nation’s largest private employer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said it supports President Barack Obama’s plan to force large employers to offer their employees health benefits.

The company favors the employer mandate, strong efficiency provisions and a “trigger” mechanism to ensure cost reductions, according to a statement from Leslie Dach, executive vice president of corporate affairs and government relations for Wal-Mart.

“At Wal-Mart, we believe in shared responsibility and support an employer mandate that is broad and fair,” Dach said in her statement. “We believe the mandate should cover as many businesses as possible, and cover part-time as well as full-time employees. Any alternative to an employer mandate should not create barriers or disincentives to hiring workers with disabilities, entry level employees, or people from low income families.”

Mike Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart; Andy Stern, the president of Service Employees International Union and John Podesta, CEO of the Center for American Progress, signed a letter sent to Obama outlining their support for the three components of health care reform. “We are for an employer mandate which is fair and broad in its coverage,” the letter said.

Dach said the letter was designed to “add our combined voices to the momentum building behind reform. We believe the time for comprehensive reform is now. The present system is not sustainable. The status quo is not an option.”

Several years ago, Wal-Mart was the subject of a law in Maryland to force it to pay its “fair share” of health benefits for its part-time workers or face a tax. The controversial bill. The Maryland Fair Share Health Care Fund Act, required a Maryland General Assembly override of Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s veto. Later, a court found the law discriminatory since the law only applied to Wal-Mart.

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