President Obama has a big new supporter in his push for health-care reform: Wal-Mart. The nation's largest private employer reversed course today and told the White House it supports the idea of requiring large employers to provide health insurance to workers. Most large corporations, along with the US Chamber of Commerce, oppose an employer mandate as too costly. Wal-Mart's shift could give Obama momentum on one of the most controversial aspects of his reform plans, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The National Retail Federation, the main lobbying group for the industry, declared itself "flabbergasted" by Wal-Mart's letter to the president, which also was signed by a prominent union and a liberal think tank. Wal-Mart already provides insurance to its employees and doesn't want to give an advantage to companies that don't, notes the Journal. The company may be trying to head off an alternative that could be even tougher on employers of low-income workers.