What do Terri Schiavo and Wal-Mart have in common? It may seem like an odd analogy to make, but after reading reports about new legislation in Maryland that would require companies with more than 10,000 employees to spend a certain amount on health care, I couldn't help but think of the late-night "emergency" bill passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in March 2005 that helped prolong the court battle between the severely brain-damaged woman's husband and her family.
So why the comparison? Wal-Mart just happens to be the only employer in Maryland with more than 10,000 employees, meaning that the legislation was crafted almost solely to impact one company, just as the Schiavo bill was intended for only one woman —- an action that polls showed ultimately drew criticism from the majority of Americans.
As someone who covers small business and entrepreneurship for a living, I would hardly call myself a Wal-Mart apologist —- yes, I've seen the benefits of partnering with Wal-Mart as a small company, but also the negative impact it continues to have on some smaller competitors. That said, as the Schiavo case showed, crafting legislation with very specific targets in mind can be a tricky business. Making sure that more people have affordable health care is an admirable goal, I just don't know if this is the best method for accomplishing it. After all, companies big and small are struggling with the ever-rising cost of health care. How would you like it if your company were singled out by lawmakers?