STATE MANDATES HEALTH COVERAGE TO EMPLOYEES AND DEPENDENTS

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A bill mandating that all employers in California provide health care coverage to employees and their dependents through a state-administered agency has been passed by the legislature here and signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis prior to last week's recall election.try's point of view, the bill would impact small grocers in California who may provide health care to their employees

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A bill mandating that all employers in California provide health care coverage to employees and their dependents through a state-administered agency has been passed by the legislature here and signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis prior to last week's recall election.

try's point of view, the bill would impact small grocers in California who may provide health care to their employees but do not cover those employees' dependents, Paul Smith, a legislative analyst for the California Grocers Association, told SN.

He said the bill was introduced as part of a labor-backed effort to level the playing field between non-union operators like Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., which is poised to begin opening supercenters in the state, and unionized companies, based on the perception of some that Wal-Mart is not providing competitive coverage to its employees and their families.

"But health care benefits for multistate operators are governed by federal law, which supercedes state law, so it's doubtful the new law will have much impact on Wal-Mart," Smith told SN. "At the end of the day, the bill is more of a full-employment guarantee for lawyers, who will litigate this issue to death."