Maryland lawmakers voted this week to over-ride a veto by Gov. Robert Erlich of a bill that will force Wal-Mart and other companies to provide health care benefits for their employees.
National media report the stakes are high, because 30 other states, including Pennsylvania, are considering similar laws. Organized labor and health care advocates are trying to get companies to cover their employees’ health insurance costs and state programs for the uninsured. Critics claim those disgruntled after losing the big national battle over government-run health insurance are aiming to get in through a back door at the state level.
In Maryland, the new law would force companies with more than 10,000 employees to spend eight percent of their payroll on employee health insurance — or contribute eight percent to the state’s Medicaid program. Proposals in New Hampshire and Rhode Island would impose this health insurance mandate on companies with as few as 1,500 and 1,000 employers respectively. Many observers forecast future proposals quickly will affect employers with far fewer workers.
HB 1336 by state Rep. Jake Wheatley (Pittsburgh) requires the public welfare department to make a report of employers with 20 or more workers who have employees that use state-run health insurance. Ultimately, the Medicaid reporting legislation leads directly to a pay-or-play health insurance system.