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January 13, 2006
Maryland Requires Wal-Mart to Pay More on Health Benefits

Lawmakers in Maryland have overrode a governor's veto and passed legislation that requires for-profit employers with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8 percent of payroll on healthcare benefits for employees or pay the difference into the state's health program for low-income families, USA Today reports.

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In effect, the legislation affects just one company--Wal-Mart--because other large for-profit employers pay at least 8 percent of their payroll toward health benefits, the newspaper notes.

Under the legislation, non-profit organizations are subject to a 6-percent threshold.

Wal-Mart and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce criticized the decision to override the veto.

"More than three-fourths of Wal-Mart associates have health insurance. And every Wal-Mart associate in Maryland--both full-time and part-time--can become eligible for health coverage that costs as little as $23 per month," said company spokesperson Sarah Clark in a statement. "Wal-Mart does believe everyone should have access to affordable health care, and this legislation does nothing to accomplish this goal."

The Maryland legislation will take effect in 2007.

In other states, the AFL-CIO has launched a campaign to encourage lawmakers to pass similar legislation that would force large employers to pay a certain portion of payroll on healthcare benefits.

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