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As the Washington State legislature considers bills that would require businesses with 5,000 or more employees in the state to spend at least 9 percent of their payroll costs on employee health care, or pay the difference into the state's health care fund, Safeway reportedly has weighed in support of such a mandate – which is perceived generally as being anti-Wal-Mart.

The Seattle Times reports that the president of Safeway’s Seattle division, Greg Sparks, has written a letter complaining about having to compete with companies that do not provide health care, and calling for “immediate action” to deal with health care inequities.

While the Times notes that Sparks did not explicitly endorse the legislative proposal, “he raised several of the same arguments supporters have made.

“He pointed out that ‘responsible employers’ and taxpayers are facing an ‘increased burden’ to cover health-care costs for the uninsured.”

And, he wrote, "We share your concern with the impact on the health-care delivery system of the cost-shifting by the uninsured, as well as the unfair competitive advantage that employers who do not provide health benefits to their workers have over those of us who do.”

The state of Maryland and the county of Suffolk, NY, have both adopted similar laws, and some 30 other states reportedly are considering the same action.

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.
KC's View:
As you’ll see from many of the emails posted below in “Your Views,” there seems to be preponderance of opinion against state mandated health care expenditures by retailers – mostly on the premise that these decisions need to be made by retailers, not government. This is an approach to which we are sympathetic.

But where it gets dicey, and where we still find ourselves conflicted on this issue, is when they start calculating how much public money is being used to cover the folks who are unable to afford health insurance coverage provided by their employers. This is troubling….and we can understand why other companies might object as well.