In a huge blow to the opponents of healthcare reform, Wal-Mart has come out in support of a mandate that employers provide affordable healthcare to their employees. Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest employer, and its uninsured employees are one of the biggest drains on the healthcare system. Wal-Mart’s position creates a giant crack in the coalition against healthcare reform.
Wal-Mart along with the SEIU, and the liberal Center for American Progress sent a letter to President Obama expressing support for the employer mandate, “As the nation’s largest private employer, the nation’s largest union of health care workers with over one million members, and a think tank that has been a leader on health care policy, we have worked closely in support of health care reform since 2006, when we came together to help break the stalemate that had defined the health care debate for too long. Now, to move the debate forward once again, we are coming together to advance what we believe are important proposals that should be included in the current efforts to reform our nation’s health care system.”
For Wal-Mart this issue is about reducing healthcare costs, “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, but any alternative to an employer mandate should not create barriers to hiring entry level employees. 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. Guaranteeing cost containment is essential.”
Wal-Mart sees the writing on the wall here. The retail giant can either accept the mandate, which would allow them to offer their own healthcare plan to all employees, or they can oppose Obama’s plan, and hope that the Democrats don’t pass stricter rules and mandates. Uninsured Wal-Mart employees cost state taxpayers millions of dollars each year.
If Wal-Mart does agree to offer affordable insurance to their own employees, it would help ease some of the fears that employers would drop their coverage and shift their employees to the public option. For Wal-Mart, this is a chance to get some positive publicity after years of battering for their treatment of employees. Wal-Mart’s support of the employer mandate is the biggest signal yet that real healthcare reform is coming.
(H/T: Think Progress)