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January 10, 2006
States Prepare to Press Large Employers on Healthcare Insurance

The AFL-CIO says lawmakers in 30 states are preparing to submit legislation that would require large private employers to devote at least 8 percent of their payroll to health insurance or contribute to a state health program, the New York Times reports.

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In 2005, Maryland lawmakers approved legislation that would have required 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 the poor. However, Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. vetoed the legislation. Supporters of the bill will ask for a vote to override the governor's veto soon, the newspaper reports.

Lawmakers in other states, including Connecticut , Kansas , Colorado , Florida , and Tennessee , are preparing to submit similar legislation, the AFL-CIO tells the newspaper.

The newspaper notes that Wal-Mart is one company that could be forced to pay more toward healthcare benefits if the legislation is passed. In Maryland , the proposed legislation effectively would only affect Wal-Mart because other large employers in the state meet the 8-percent threshold.

The newspapers notes that lawmakers in states like Wisconsin and Connecticut have found that many employees of Wal-Mart and other large employers rely on public health programs.

"We know that Congress is not going to take action any time soon," says Naomi Walker, director of state legislative programs at the A.F.L.-C.I.O. "So states are finding their own way to get at this problem."

In 2005, Wal-Mart unveiled a new healthcare plan that it says is more affordable. The company criticized the state proposals.

"This is just the latest negative attack from Washington union leaders," Sarah Clark, a Wal-Mart spokesperson, tells the newspaper. "These bills will do nothing to address the enormous number of uninsured or control the soaring costs of health care."


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