State-imposed mandates on employer-provided coverage do nothing to improve the healthcare coverage of employees, members of the retail industry testified before a panel of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. "They're hollow, political gimmicks" that merely force employers to pay more for coverage that is already expensive, testified Paul Kelly, senior vice president for federal and state government affairs with the Retail Industry Leaders Association. He and other witnesses expressed concern over recent mandates of this type that have been approved in Maryland and Massachusetts. Some 30 similar legislative efforts are pending in other states. Laws of this type may be tinkering with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the federal law that regulates job-based health and pension benefits, said Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), the panel's chairman, whose bill to create association health plans for small businesses was approved by the House last summer. Mila Kofman, an associate research professor at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute, countered that states are simply looking for better ways to finance medical care for residents. The Maryland law, which requires companies with more than 10,000 employees to pay for medical care and coverage in an amount equal to or more than 8% of salaries, has created a more level playing field by assisting people with the highest medical needs, she said. -- by Jennifer Lubell
Retail reps decry mandatory coverage laws
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