Friday, February 24, 2006

Bills of Attainder

According to my Black's Law Dictionary, abridged seventh edition, a bill of attainder is (2.) a special legslative act prescribing punishment, without a trial, for a specific person or group. Additioally, it notes that Art. 1, section 9, cl. 3 and art. 1, section 10, cl. 1 of the Constitution prohibit bills of attainder.

Why do I mention this? Because that what legislation in MD sort of sounds like to me. The story:

Maryland recently passed a "Fair Share Health Care Fund Act," which states that employers who employ more than 10,000 people in the state must spend at least 8% of their payroll on health care. If they spend less, then they must pay the difference to a state medical assistance fund.

Currently there are four employers in Maryland who fit that description, and one of them has filed suit challenging the law. The lawyers for Wal Mart (Wal Mart not wanting to pay for medical insurance?! The hell you say!) claim that this law is unfair as it only applies to them (not mentioning the other three employers), and that it is squarely violative of ERISA, a federal law that is supposed to create uniform health care standards.

Maryland insists that they are not forcing Wal Mart to increase their health care load. They point out that Wal Mart has a choice, and that they have an option against paying increased health insurance. The article states that many legal scholars think the law won't stand.

I'm on the fence here with how I would like this to turn out. On the one hand, I can see the importance of uniform standards, and I don't like the idea of targeting businesses just because they're big. On the other hand, it's Wal Mart. Wal Mart's health care plan has a reputation for being really poor. One man in an interview pointed out that in order to pay for health care, he would have to part with $200 of his $1200 a month paycheck. In order to make ends meet, many of the employees opt against company health insurance and choose instead to go to free clinics and ERs. This increases the burden on the hospitals and drains resources from the state that need to be replenished somehow, lest the health care system crash.

I suppose if I were pressed to take a position, I would say that I support Maryland's law, though it is a difficult choice for me. I will keep my eye on this.

1 comment:

Cassie said...

I was told by a very reliable source (a friend of a friend of a cousin's ex boyfriend's mom)that Walmart employs someone who as part of their job assists employees in obtaining welfare in the form of foodstamps, healthcare, etc. This story doesn't surprise me.