Breaking with the business community, Wal-Mart is backing President Obama’s plan to require employer-backed health insurance coverage for all employees.
The nation’s largest private employer has shocked other retailers by sending an open letter to President Obama supporting a mandate to require large employers to contribute to their employees’ health care coverage.
The National Retail Federation, a lobby for retailers, said it was “flabbergasted” by Wal-Mart’s move. 46 million Americans do not have health insurance.
"We are for an employer mandate which is fair and broad in its coverage," said the letter, signed by Wal-Mart Chief Executive Mike Duke. Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, also signed the letter, along with John Podesta, who led President Obama's transition team and is chief executive of the Center for American Progress, a think tank that calls itself “progressive”.
The Center has a copy of the full letter on its Web site.
Near universal coverage for Americans is a key to the Obama agenda.
National Retail Federation vice president Neil Trautwein said the mandate "would quite possibly cut off the economic recovery we all desperately need," he said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce argues that employer-sponsored insurance would cause companies to cut jobs.
Under the proposal, small businesses would be either exempt from the mandate or face fewer requirements, reports the WSJ.
The endorsement is expected to give momentum to the proposal.
Wal-Mart currently offers health insurance coverage to a little more than half of its 1.4 million U.S. workers. That is slightly higher than the retail industry as a whole, which averages 45 percent.
The company wants all companies to share in the burden of health care rather than face stiffer health insurance requirements for lower-wage entry level employees under a plan being considered by the Senate Finance Committee. That proposal has employers paying half of the cost of an employee on Medicaid, for example, and all of the cost to help the employee purchase health insurance from the new health-insurance exchanges, reports the WSJ blog. #