Wal-Mart’s decision to drop health coverage for part-time workers is not a shock–it’s a move anticipated for years, especially here in California, which has been debating policy proposals on this issues for over a decade.
The important news is that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, workers will still have health care coverage options available, through Medi-Cal or Covered California. After decades of employers dropping health benefits, it’s so critical that the ACA is now offering affordable options for working families.
But while workers health care options are protected under the ACA, it’s unfair and unsustainable to allow Wal-Mart and other companies to shift health costs onto taxpayers. We need the employer responsibility provision in the ACA implemented and enhanced to ensure our health system is sustainable in the long-term, to protect taxpayers, and to provide a level playing field for employers who do offer coverage to their workers.
For years, California has had one of the worst rates in the nation of employers offering health coverage to their workers and families. As a result, California voters and policymakers have actively considered proposals to employer-based coverage, including Proposition 166 in 1992 and Proposition 72 in 2004; SB2(Burton) in 2003; and AB880(Gomez) in 2013. The ACA’s employer responsibility philosophy was reflected in the AB1x1(Nunez/Schwarzenegger) proposal in 2007 and in the currently operating Healthy San Francisco. California has had a decade-long debate anticipating this moment when Wal-Mart drops coverage–the question now is if our policymakers can finally act to protect taxpayers and our health system.