Retail News Breaks Archives
Wal-Mart backs push for employer health coverage
July 1st, 2009
Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke
WASHINGTON – As the legislative battle for health care reform heats up, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has declared its support for employer-mandated health insurance coverage.
President and chief executive officer Mike Duke — along with Service Employees International Union President Andrew Stern and Center for American Progress CEO John Podesta — signed a June 30 letter to President Barack Obama that calls for businesses to share in the responsibility of paying for employee health care coverage.
The letter noted that skyrocketing health care costs have placed a crushing financial burden on families, businesses and government and are choking the nation's economic growth and competitiveness.
As a result, the executives said, "now is the time for action on this vital issue" to inject more efficiency into the health care system and take costs out while improving health care for all Americans — with employers playing their part.
"We are for shared responsibility. Not every business can make the same contribution, but everyone must make some contribution. We are for an employer mandate which is fair and broad in its coverage," the letter states. "We look forward to working with the administration and Congress to develop a requirement that is both sensible and equitable.
"Support for a mandate also requires the strongest possible commitment to rein in health care costs," the executives stressed. "Guaranteeing cost containment is essential."
Requiring large companies to offer workers health insurance is one of the Obama administration's key priorities in overhauling the health care system. Having Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, echoing that call could help the initiative build momentum.
Wal-Mart has been criticized in the past by labor groups and others for not offering workers adequate health coverage. However, the retailer has also advanced the cause for more affordable health care, such as through its landmark $4 generic drug program, and has called for universal health coverage for all Americans.
And this week Wal-Mart added its voice to the brewing health care reform debate.
"We believe the time for comprehensive reform is now. The present system is not sustainable," Leslie Dach, executive vice president of corporate affairs and government relations at Wal-Mart, said in a company statement.
"At Wal-Mart, we believe in shared responsibility and support an employer mandate that is broad and fair. We believe the mandate should cover as many businesses as possible and cover part-time as well as full-time employees."
Health care reform legislation should include an employer mandate, strong efficiency provisions and a "trigger mechanism" to ensure cost reductions for employers and government, Dach stated.
"We are entering a critical time where those of us who will be asked to pay for health care reform will have to make a choice on whether to support this legislation. The choice will require employers to consider the trade-off of a coverage mandate and higher taxes for the promise of a reduction in health care cost increases," Dach explained. "We also believe that a mandate must be accompanied by provisions that will reduce health costs and dramatically improve the value we get for our health care dollar."
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