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The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) has filed a pair of lawsuits to challenge laws that would require retailers of a certain size – in most cases, Wal-Mart - to spend a specific amount of money on health care for employees or face fines.

The suits challenge existing laws covering the state of Maryland and in Suffolk, County, New York.

The Maryland law, which became law over the veto of the governor and despite enormous lobbying on the part of Wal-Mart, says that companies with more than 10,000 employees in the state must spend the at least eight percent of their total payroll cost on health care. If they don’t meet that threshold, they are then fined an equivalent amount, which is put into the state Medicaid fund.

The Suffolk County law is similar to the Maryland statute.

The reasoning behind the law is that employees not provided with ample and affordable health insurance by their employers are then forced to seek medical assistance at the public trough, and that in essence, taxpayers are underwriting health coverage for Wal-Mart employees.

Wal-Mart has consistently debated that interpretation of its health care policies. Now, with these lawsuits, it has the backing of a major trade association.

"We all agree that access to health care is vital, but these spending mandates will drive away business and discourage job creation," Bradbury H. Anderson, chairman of the association and chief executive of Best Buy, said in a statement.
KC's View:
We are sort of conflicted on this one. We hate the idea of these kinds of government mandates, even though for it to have any kind of impact on us we’d have to either move to Maryland or Long Island and hire 9,999 employees – which probably isn’t happening anytime soon.

On the other hand, if our tax dollars are being used to help cover medical care for people with jobs who simply cannot afford to get insurance through their company, then we have a problem.