WASHINGTON BUREAU — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest private U.S. employer, says it supports the concept of requiring private employers to offer health coverage.
Mike Duke, chairman of Wal-Mart, Bentonville, Ark., has joined with Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, Washington, and John Podesta, chief of the Obama transition and head of the Center for American Progress, Washington, in signing a letter addressed to President Obama that expresses support for an “employer mandate.”
“We are for shared responsibility,” Duke and the others write in the letter. “Not every business can make the same contribution, but everyone must make some contribution.”
Duke and the others note that they also want to see Congress offer a guarantee to businesses that health care costs will be contained.
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Wal-Mart, SEIU and the Center for American Progress are calling for use of a trigger mechanism that would impose automatic reductions if health care spending rose above annual targets.
“The promise of savings in the bill must be more than just words,” Leslie Dach, a Wal-Mart representative, says in a statement about the company’s views on health reform. “Wal-Mart believes that if we support a mandate and are being asked to pay higher taxes, we should be assured in return, that savings will be real.”
But Wal-Mart believes the time for comprehensive reform is now, Dach says.
“The present system is not sustainable,” Dach says. “The status quo is not an option.”
The letter was sent as Obama set about trying to round up support for health care and health finance efforts. He traveled to Annandale, Va., today to participate in an emotional public forum on health finance issues.