County Legislators Want Retailers to Pay for Medical Benefits

Discussion
Aug 17, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

A bill backed by both Republicans and Democrats in Suffolk County, NY would require businesses that meet certain revenue and square footage requirements to set aside $3 for every
hour worked by an employee to cover health insurance costs.

Minority Leader William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) introduced the proposal, which has the support of Majority Leader Peter O’Leary (R-Moriches). It is said to be similar to other bills
being considered around the country.

“The box stores come to our area and compete against a lot of local mom-and-pop stores and chain stores that have good health care benefits,” Mr. Lindsay told Newsday.
“This bill is trying to level the playing field a little bit.”

Not far from Suffolk County, the New York City Council is considering approval of the Health Care Security Act. While Mayor Michael Bloomberg is said to be opposed to the legislation,
the Council may have enough votes to overcome a veto and make New York the first city in the U.S. with a law requiring employers to pay for healthcare benefits.

Retailers such as BJ’s, CVS, Kmart, Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart would be among those required to set aside monies if the Suffolk County measure was adopted.

“Employers that pay a competitive wage and pay excellent health benefits shouldn’t be subject to government-run health care,” said spokesperson Tiffani Bruce of Walgreens.. “We
think that we do that.”

Mia Masten, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart, said the company offered benefits “competitive with other retailers.”

Moderator’s Comment: Should government establish minimum coverage standards for employer sponsored health care plans based on company size?

George Anderson – Moderator

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14 Comments on "County Legislators Want Retailers to Pay for Medical Benefits"


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Tom Zatina
Guest
Tom Zatina
15 years 6 months ago

I am generally not in favor of government mandated programs. This is mostly because they are so often crafted without regard to the impact of the details – or the details that are missing. And the devil is always in the details. Good intentions often get derailed. Repercussions are hard to predict and many will be negative.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 6 months ago
Once again, our local politicians — the best that money can buy — have missed the mark. Suffolk County indeed has a problem. There is an influx of uninsured immigrants and other lower wage workers who are straining county services to the limit. Who’s going to administer the $3 that’s set aside for every eligible worker? Suffolk County is a conglomeration of petty little bureaucracies, none of which have the infrastructure to handle this kind of program. More than likely, any money collected will end up in County coffers and will be doled out for other purposes — including inflated salaries for its own ineffective workforce or to pay for someone’s home renovations. I live next door in Nassau County and I can assure you that both counties are home to some of the most corrupt political machines since Tammany Hall. We need to look again at serious and widespread healthcare reform. Penalizing companies simply because they take up more space or bring in more sales is not wise economics. And by the way, I’m… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 6 months ago
Forcing employers to pay for health care insurance is one of the best presents retailers could receive. By making the competition pay for benefits, it means that no significant retailer has an advantage over another retailer that treats its employees decently. If this proposal is adopted, I believe that mom and pop stores will eventually be forced by the legislature some years hence to do the same thing. And it won’t hurt anyone legit business because everyone will have to do it. Of course, many employers will cry that it will put people out of business and/or reduce employment. So did the minimum wage, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the abolition of slavery. I bet that some employers would gladly add an extra 10 cents to the $3 an hour requirement to pay for enforcement of the immigration laws. That enforcement would also help to level the playing field. Suffolk County has corruption, as mentioned above, but it also has been in the vanguard of other progressive legislation. It banned detergents many years ago,… Read more »
todd sullivan
Guest
todd sullivan
15 years 6 months ago
As an employer, why is it my responsibility to pay your insurance? Should I pay your auto and homeowners too? How about I get every employee a million dollar life policy? What about your groceries? If I have to pay your health insurance, do I now have the right to dictate how you live your life? Can I now test for alcohol and drugs randomly and fire you if they are present? These items raise health care costs for us all. What about fat people? Can I fire you if you gain 20 lbs? If I implement a policy that states “in order to keep health care coverage for all employees and keep costs reasonable, any employee with a body fat % above 22%, any smokers or person who tests positive for alcohol, will be terminated. This policy takes effect 4 months from now.” Can you imagine the outrage? I pay you a wage for the time you work for me. I do not tell you how to spend your money. If I were to… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

Adjectives are so subjective. What precisely does that statement mean in real terms? “we pay COMPETITIVE wages and offer GENEROUS health care benefits.” Says who? The employer? Well forgive me for using an old cliche yet again, but they would say that, wouldn’t they? If the legislation under discussion is passed and enforced then yes, employers would probably be paying reasonable, if not generous, health care benefits. Quite right too. And I wonder how long it would take them to claw back what they claim they are already paying through some means or other that evades the specification that the costs of the new legislation must not be deducted from wages. Competitive wages may or may not be sufficient to cover adequate health care; competing with other retailers doesn’t guarantee that employees earn enough to cover their family’s living costs and contingencies. Neither does making excuses about spouses’ employers covering health care; passing the buck to either another employer, the government or other taxpayers is a totally disingenuous tactic.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

No, I don’t believe the government should tax a select group of retailers. This sounds like “feel good” political rhetoric from the radical anti-capitalist extremists. Retailers such as BJ’s, CVS, Kmart, Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart already provide excellent health care benefits for qualified employees that are competitive with other private industry employers. There are just too many loopholes to get around this anyway. Wal-Mart would simply have no employees. They would be serviced by outside contractors similar to the way they handle janitorial services. It’s very unfair to target businesses based on revenue and size. What about businesses that have substantial profit margins and operate out of a tiny facility, such as diamond merchant? Sometimes I think these politicians just make this stuff up so the big retailers will donate money to them to vote otherwise, while at the same time trying to win votes from the underprivileged.

Tom McGoldrick
Guest
Tom McGoldrick
15 years 6 months ago

“The box stores come to our area and compete against a lot of local mom-and-pop stores and chain stores that have good health care benefits,”… I would like to see some statistics backing this up. It has always been my experience that the larger a company is, the more likely it is to have full employee benefits. The proportion of full time with benefits to part-time without benefits is probably more the issue.

Healthcare is a serious problem for this country. Not providing some type of universal coverage is a false economy. It drives people to the emergency room and away from preventative healthcare. However, this type of policy can’t work at a local level. All it will do is encourage employers to move across the county line.

George Whalin
Guest
George Whalin
15 years 6 months ago
This is a perfect example of bureaucrats doing what they do best. There are two important concerns here for retailers. The first is how can any retailer afford to set aside $3.00 for every hour worked by an employee? With labor costs continuing to rise due to fierce competition for capable employees and governments all jumping on the so-called “living wage” bandwagon, the cost of doing business makes it more difficult than ever to just do business. The second concern here is where does it stop? When state and local governments decide businesses should shoulder more of the burden of their employee’s health care costs what will be next ? Will they be mandating that every business provide a retirement plan for their employees; mandating that every business provide educational programs for employees; or mandating that every business provide child care for every employee who is a parent? The result of such things is quite simple. Prices will rise and some stores will go out of business. Is this good for any anyone living and… Read more »
Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

Let us set aside the obvious discriminatory problems with this legislation for a moment, serious as they are, and deal with the fundamental issue of “rights.” As of today, no employee in America has a “fundamental right” to health care insurance. They most certainly do not have a “right” to employer provided health care insurance.

Is that good? Like the Supreme Court, ours is not to judge the morality of law, only the constitutionality. If we want to legislate morality we have a fine vehicle for doing that — it is called the polls. And the implementation arm of the peoples’ moral mandate is the government. So IF we believe fundamental rights to paid health care insurance are a good thing, let’s do it the right way — through legislation that provides a level playing field for both access and cost distribution to all.

Now let these government entities tackle THAT!

Michael L. Howatt
Guest
Michael L. Howatt
15 years 6 months ago

It’s a shame these companies have not taken this initiative on their own, so yes I believe the government should step in. Most of these employees probably work very hard, have families and should be entitled to proper health care.

I think the next step should be automobile insurance as well. Taking care of their employees well being should be as important as the bottom line. I’m sure discounted government programs could be worked out. If the government and corporations work together to make sure every employee had both proper health insurance and auto insurance we might step up in the world view, say to Canada’s level?

David Divine
Guest
David Divine
15 years 6 months ago

We do not have a health care system in this country; we have a disease care system. Mandatory “health care” will only increase costs. What is needed is a change in lifestyle. People are creating their health issues by what they consume and what they do not consume. The percentage of people in this country over the age of 45, with at least one chronic degenerative disease, has skyrocketed from 20% in 1900 to over 70% in 2000! And we did not have any “health care” system back in 1900.

We must not expect the government to step-in and mandate “health care.” There is way too much waste and corruption in the system already. We do not need the help of our politicians in this matter. No to government mandated disease care!

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 6 months ago
I hate to say this but I can’t understand where anyone gets the idea that a business is obligated to provide its employees with health insurance. Anyone who knows anything about a P&L statement realizes that it’s the business’s customers who provide the funding for health insurance through their purchases of the companies products or services. It’s really just another tax we all pay every time we buy anything or pay for a service. The idiots who have proposed this “rule” have only assured that any business that can, will move out of the County and NO NEW BUSINESS will move in! To pay for this “benefit,” business owners (those that can’t move) will probably raise prices, reduce the number of people they have on the payroll, move employees from full to part time or become non competitive and go out of business. The problem here is not the mandate, it’s the scope of the mandate. It’s not wide enough to do any good. Now that we have the situation identified, let’s get our doctors… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 6 months ago
Perhaps I’m wrong about this because admittedly I have absolutely no evidence to back it up, but I have always had the sense that Americans go to see their doctors more often than most people and that they are unhappy if they come away without some sort of prescription. Bearing in mind the barrage of advertising to which they’re subjected by drug companies, hypochondria and psychosomatic illnesses appear to be at epidemic level. And far more genuine illnesses are diagnosed and treated than ever before. In addition, most of the Americans I know have more than one doctor and accept as a natural right that they should see specialists for everything. One couple I know met and fell in love because they went to the same internist. What is that all about? Short of changing the entire culture, I can’t see stoicism or living with any kind of ailment or illness becoming the norm any time soon. Which means that health care – or disease care – costs will continue to rise and people will… Read more »
Jason Brasher
Guest
Jason Brasher
15 years 6 months ago
There are some great arguments on both sides of this issue posted here. I can understand how business owners would not want to have government mandate how they compensate employees. At the same time, these businesses are a part of our society and benefit from the free market and the fruits of their laborers’ efforts. Although I am not familiar with the details of the program in question, it doesn’t sound like a viable solution to any of these problems. It is only my opinion but I do believe that employers have an obligation to improve the lives of the employees that improve the company’s profits. With the amount of consolidation that has taken place in the last decade and globalization of trade, it is increasingly difficult for labor to organize and have an impact. I would much rather see our politicians spend their time finding real solutions to what I see outlined as the real problem here: poor immigration policies, unchecked exportation of jobs to third world countries and a broken health care industry… Read more »
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