A little while ago, I cited three measures wending their way through the New Hampshire legislature that, in my opinion, exemplified why I love living in New Hampshire. They were all measures that protected individual rights and freedoms and responsibilties.
Which is why I feel a smidgen embarassed to note that a few Granite State lawmakers (Democrats, predictably enough) have decided that Maryland’s grand “soak Wal-Mart” experiment ought to be tried up here, too.
(In brief: they want to pass their own version of Maryland’s recently-passed law requiring companies with more than a certain number of employees to pay a certain percentage of their total payroll towards health insurance for their employees.)
Maryland is already seeing the consequences of this measure, as Wal-Mart is reconsidering plans to open a new distribution center in the state, and might build it in a neighboring one.
The Concord Monitor’s article quotes one critic of the bill, who raises an interesting point. A spokesmen for BAE systems is concerned — his company has a lot of employees, and just might fall under this bill. But they also have very high wages, and since the law sets a percentage as the threshold, they just might have to pay more simply to meet the requirements of the law. I’m not quite sure how that would work, though — maybe they’ll provide all employees with health club memberships or personal dieticians or something.
(I can see this playing out: “Johnson, we’re below 8%! We have to find a way to spend an extra $30 per employee per year!”
“Um, how about we give them each a fruit basket every quarter?”
“Not good enough! Toss in a free blood pressure screening every month!”)
Another point, not raised in the article, is a purely mathematic one. The supporters of the bill say they came by the 8% figure based on the national average of what companies spend on health care.
But here’s a funny thing about averages: when you raise standards to meet an average, you tend to redefine “average.” If 8% is the average, that means that quite a few companies spend less than that. If you change that 8% to a minimum, then the average will rise, too — unless you also make it a ceiling as well.
Here’s a dirty little secret nobody likes to talk about: Wal-Mart employees are, for the most part, interchangeable. Their jobs don’t require any great skills or training. They are, in essence, designed for people who have few other choices in employment. Wal-Mart wages aren’t great, but they are often better than other opportunities such people have available to them.
So here’s hoping that sanity returns to the New Hampshire legislature and this bill dies the quick death it so richly deserves.