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The Baltimore Sun reports that the Maryland Attorney General’s office has decided not to appeal a ruling by the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down the Maryland law that would have required that employers with more than 10,000 employees had to pay at least eight percent of their payroll costs in health benefits or be fined by the state.

Two federal courts have now ruled that that the state’s Fair Share Health Care Fund Act was in violation of federal law. The rulings – and now, the state’s acquiescence - are seen as an enormous victory for Wal-Mart.

The Maryland law was pushed by organized labor and pro-labor activists who complained that by not providing adequate health care coverage, certain employers were forcing workers to go on public assistance, which was costing the taxpayers money. There are only eight companies in Maryland with more than 10,000 employees, and only one – Wal-Mart – reportedly fell beneath the eight percent threshold. Ahold-owned Giant Food, which has more than 10,000 employees in the state but pays more than the requisite amount in health care benefits, had supported the Fair Share Health Care Fund Act, saying that it created a level playing field.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said that an appeal would have taken years and been extremely costly to taxpayers. And, he defended the fair Share legislation, saying that it had forced Wal-Mart to improve its benefits package for employees. “"Fair Share had a great impact in the state and on the nation," Gansler said. "Today, Wal-Mart offers health care to more of its part-time employees and has drastically reduced co-payments for prescription drugs."
KC's View:
While we were never convinced that Fair Share was a workable concept, mostly because a state-by-state approach just seemed overly and unfairly complicated, we remain unconvinced that the real problem – the high cost of health care and the lack of effective and efficient coverage for many employees – has been addressed in Maryland.