Universal Healthcare on Corporate Ballots

Universal health care will appear on the shareholder proxy ballots of a number of major corporations this year, according to a New York Times report. The shareholder proposal does not address issues of health benefits for employees but instead asks the companies to develop principles for “comprehensive health care reform.” Although some companies have argued that shareholder voting is not the proper venue for the proposal, those offering it recently got the blessing of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has ordered several companies to put it on their proxy ballots.

Universal health care will appear on the shareholder proxy ballots of a number of major corporations this year, according to a New York Times report. The shareholder proposal does not address issues of health benefits for employees but instead asks the companies to develop principles for “comprehensive health care reform.” Although some companies have argued that shareholder voting is not the proper venue for the proposal, those offering it recently got the blessing of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has ordered several companies to put it on their proxy ballots.

Advocates for the universal health care proposal, which include labor unions and religious groups, say they are trying to get major corporations to join the debate about the future of the nation’s health care. Both groups carry some clout—they are major shareholders in many large companies through their pension and health benefit plans. They also argue that universal health care has the potential for increasing the value of their stock holdings, since the high cost of health benefits puts such a drag on corporate profits.

The proposal was submitted to several large corporations and was met with a civil response from many. But others, including Boeing, General Motors, and United Technologies, resisted, arguing that the proposal would not benefit either the companies or their shareholders. Under the SEC order, these companies will now be required to put the health care proposal on their proxy ballots.