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2005-08-20
New York, NY. City Council Passes Big Box Health Insurance Ordinance

This week the New York, New York City Council passed, on a vote of 46-1, a city ordinance that requires stores that sell groceries to provide a set level of health care coverage for their workers. The bill will affect a number of large retailers, including Wal-Mart. Similar health insurance measures have been under consideration in Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, San Francisco and Suffolk County, New York. Members of the City Council told the Washington Post that the new law was designed to ensure that workers do not have to rely on public health programs, which are a drain on the city. When the legislature in Maryland passed a similar ordinance several months ago, Governor Robert Ehrlich Jr. vetoed it. The Maryland bill required for-profit companies with more than 10,000 employees to spend 8% of their payroll on health care benefits or contribute to the state's health program for the poor. The New York law requires any grocery store with 35 or more employees or other retail stores with 10,000 s.f. or more of floor space for food items to contribute $2.50 to $3 for health care for each hour an employee works. That is the average amount that employers in the New York grocery industry that provide health care currently contribute. New York City Councilors said they supported the measure because it ensures health care coverage for more workers, while leveling the playing field among retailers."There are 12,000 grocery workers in New York today who don't get coverage for their work," said Councilor Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), who introduced the bill. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to veto the measure. His spokesman said, "The bill violates federal law, is riddled with loopholes, and providing health care to a selective group who work only in one industry is terrible public policy." The City Council will need to muster 34 votes to override the Mayor. Wal-Mart has been trying to locate a store site in New York City for more than a year, but was dumped from its first project in Queens, when the developer, Vornado Realty, dropped them. "We remain interested in the New York market," a Wal-Mart spokesman said. "This will not deter us." Sprawl-Busters reported that Congress is considering a bill that would force states to report companies that have 50 or more employees who receive government-funded health care. Wal-Mart employees who work 34 hours or more a week receive full-time benefits. Workers can get benefits after 180 days with the company. For families, premiums range from about $155 a month with a $1,000 annual deductible and access to Wal-Mart network doctors, to nearly $300 a month with a deductible of $350. "At end of day, you should be getting health insurance and it will drive down cost for all others," said Mark S. Jaffe, president of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce told the Washington Post. "We would advocate to [employers] they need to do this. I think our members are smart enough to realize this is good for business."

What you can do: For earlier stories on this topic, search Newsflash by "health care". For copies of various bills before legislatures, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










 
 
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