a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Fair Share Health Care becomes Maryland law

Posted by Thomas Nephew on January 13th, 2006

The Washington Post’s headline tonight is still off by one — it’s not just the “Md. Senate Overrides Veto on ‘Wal-Mart Bill‘, but the House as well. By 30-17 and 88-50 votes, respectively, Governor Bob Ehrlich’s veto of the Fair Share Health Care bill was overridden by the Maryland legislature.

The law calls for Maryland companies with over 10,000 employees to either pay 8% of payroll to health benefits, or make up the difference with payments to a state Medicaid fund. This partly recompenses the state for the costs all too often shunted to state health care systems by low-wage, low health benefits companies like Wal-Mart.

The Post’s John Wagner captured the moment:

The bill prompted frantic lobbying in recent weeks, with unions and health care advocates airing radio and television ads and Wal-Mart running full-page ads in major newspapers. The company also bulked up its lobbying corps in Annapolis, hiring at least 12 lobbyists, whom [Senator] Pinsky derisively called the Dirty Dozen during yesterday’s debate.

The Annapolis press corps was swollen with members of the national media, and immediately after the House vote, [House speaker Michael] Busch was whisked outside the State House for a national television interview.

The whoops and cheers of advocates echoed in the vast hallway outside the House chamber. Union members and their lobbyists hugged lawmakers and posed for photos, giving a thumbs-up, some with tears in their eyes. “We prevailed. Yes!” said an exuberant Del. Veronica L. Turner (D-Prince George’s).

The party’s in full swing over at Wal-Mart Watch, Wake-Up Wal-Mart, Americans for Health Care, and elsewhere. And the victory in Maryland may be just the first of many. The New York Times’ Michael Barbaro wrote last week:

In a national campaign aimed squarely at Wal-Mart Stores, lawmakers in 30 states are preparing to introduce legislation that would require large corporations to increase spending on employee health insurance, according to the A.F.L.-C.I.O., which planned to announce the initiative this morning. […]

Seizing on momentum from the Maryland bill, lawmakers plan to introduce similar legislation in Connecticut, Kansas, Florida, Colorado and Tennessee, among other states, according to A.F.L.-C.I.O. leaders.

“We know that Congress is not going to take action any time soon,” said Naomi Walker, director of state legislative programs at the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “So states are finding their own way to get at this problem.”

(AFL-CIO link added). The bills elsewhere will propose broadly similar provisions to the legislation passed in Maryland.

Meanwhile, a big “Well done!” to the Maryland Democratic Party for seeing this fight through and winning it. They had a lot of support, but it was Maryland’s Democratic senators and delegates who had to go ahead and vote for this. Let them know you appreciate it.

EDIT, 1/13: Americans for Health Care and legislative history links added (click MD flag for MD Senate leg. history and link to MD House).

3 Responses to “Fair Share Health Care becomes Maryland law”

  1. Nell Says:

    Congratulations! From over here in Virginia, so close yet so far away, passing such a bill seems like a lovely dream.
    Wins are great. This one directly improves the lives of so many people who need and deserve it. Well done!

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    It *is* nice to win one like this.
    I’m going to be watching my home state of Tennessee to see what happens there — if (1) Bredesen gets interested and can (2) make it work in TN, maybe Kaine can in VA.
    All in all, it’s probably a long shot in TN, but people there don’t like free-loading megacompanies either. Plus now that they’ve belt-tightened the bejesus out of Tenncare, there may be some support for getting Wal-Mart and other big companies to pay for some of their folks still showing up on the rolls.

  3. eRobin Says:

    Yay! And PA is supposed to be considering one as well. I’m itching to watch these dominoes fall.

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