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2006-01-01
Concord, NH. Fair Share Health Care Bill To Be Heard This Month

Lawmakers in New Hampshire will take up legislation this month that requires large corporations to pay their fair share of health care costs for their workers. Such legislation around the country has been called the "Fair Share Health Care Act." The hearing on HB 1704, "An Act establishing a health care fund, continually appropriating a special fund, and requiring certain employers to report certain information to the department of health and human services" will take place on January 11th. Similar legislation was passed last year in Maryland, and was vetoed by the Governor. But that veto may be overridden this month. The New Hampshire bill would create a "Fair Share Health Care Fund." Moneys in this fund will be used to support the operation of the state's Medicaid program. Under the proposed law, a for-profit employer with 1,500 or more employees, would have to spend up to 10.5% of the total wages paid to employees in the state on health insurance costs. If the corporation paid less than 10.5% of wages, it would have to pay into the Fair Share Health Care Fund "an amount equal to the difference between what the employer spends for health insurance costs and an amount equal to 10.5% of the total wages paid to employees in the state." Non-profit corporations would have to spend up to 8.5% of wages, or pay into the fund. An employer is allowed not to count wages paid to any employee beyond the amount taxable for federal Social Security (FICA) purposes; wages paid to an employee who is enrolled in or eligible for Medicare; and wages paid to an employee who is a seasonal worker or works less than 90 days a year. So most of the salary of a highly paid executives would not count as wages under this bill. Any employer who violates the provisions of this law would be guilty of a misdemeanor. The new law would take effect January 1, 2007 if passed this year. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has been asked to measure the fiscal impact of this bill, but to date has not produced a fiscal impact report. This legislation was introduced by State Representative Marcia Moody, and Representative Mary Beth Walz. One of the corporations that will be subject to this legislation is Wal-Mart, which as of December, 2005, had 8,772 employees in New Hampshire. But a number of other corporations will be subject to the measure as well.

What you can do: According to the National Labor Caucus of State Legislators, in 2005, only 60% of employers in America offer health insurance to their employees, down from 69% in 2000. More than 25% of workers in companies with more than 500 workers do not receive employer-based health care. These workers turn to state and federal health care programs like Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) for their health care, at taxpayer's expense. A study by The Commonwealth Fund found that taxpayers are paying for $8 billion in health insurance costs for workers who lack employer health coverage. A Families USA study found that workers with employer-sponsored health insurance are paying on average $922 per year to cover the cost of health care for the uninsured. The Maryland Fair Share bill requires employees with 10,000 or more workers to pay 8% of payroll towards health care. Around the nation, employers pay 10.7% of wages on health care, and private firms with 500+ workers spend 11.3% of wages on health care benefits. To obtain a copy of the New Hampshire Fair Share bill, contact info@sprawl-busters.com. To see a Model Fair Share Health Care Fund Act adaptable to any state, contact nwalker@aflcio.org.










 
 
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