The nation’s largest retailer has joined with the Service Employees International Union and the liberal Center for American Progress to support an employer mandate. In a letter to President Obama, Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke, along with Andy Stern of the SEIU and John Podesta of CAP, write “We are entering a critical time during which all of us who will be asked to pay for health care reform will have to make a choice on whether to support the legislation. This choice will require employers to consider the trade off of agreeing to a coverage mandate and additional taxes versus the promise of reduced health care cost increases.” The letter later said, “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.”
This news isn’t all that surprising. Wal-Mart has in the past supported initiatives such as raising the minimum wage, which hurt their competitors and allowed them to curry favor with their union critics. But this letter also reinforces why Obama’s declaration that people can keep their insurance coverage if they like it is just hot air. Under a mandate, many employers would just pay a tax and dump their workers on to a government exchange, thus meaning a lot of people –likely in the tens of millions — will lose their current coverage.
That said, the letter will help give President Obama and Democrats cover to push the employer mandate idea, and respond to criticism from the Chamber of Commerce, which has argued that a mandate would cost jobs and reduce salaries.