A proposal floating about our State Senate would require certain West Virginia businesses to spend at least eight percent of their employee wages on health insurance.

It says nothing about how much businesses should budget for meals at local restaurants, what their employees should and shouldn't eat, or when.

Not that any of the latter are actually worse ideas.

The "Fair Share Health Care Act," to be clear, is a Mountain State-staged assault by paid political mercenaries on West Virginia's favorite place to shop, Wal-Mart. And why not? The company's sixteen in-state stores only make life eminently more affordable for anyone lucky enough to live nearby.

That Wal-Mart also employs more than 10,000 West Virginians-- another company character flaw, apparently-- has spawned the optimistically named "Act", which pretends that there exists some magically suitable amount of employer-provided money that will cure our health care system's deficiencies.

If our employers would only pay more, the sponsors maintain, we'd all feel better and the world would be more "fair." Or something like that.

Setting aside the slippery slope danger of government's proscribing specific expense levels for private companies, this bill is founded on a false premise-- that private employers hold the key to wider health care access.

Quite the opposite is true. In an increasingly costly health care system, where groundbreaking drugs and treatments mean more life, hope, and expense, employers have been left holding the bag.

Our tradition of reliance on private companies to "give" us health insurance in return for jobs with lower salaries-- as opposed to buying it directly like we do car or life insurance-- isn't serving us well. It has led to less choice, less competition, higher prices, and a serious supply problem, as evidenced by reports that West Virginia is home to 300,000 uninsured.

Imagine if we all got detergent in the same way we do health insurance-- through our jobs. No doubt, the State Senate would be decrying and "access" problem there as well, proposing bad legislative laundry remedy after bad.

That we don't-- and we can find everything we want for an "everyday low price" at our friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart-- is a free market blessing we shouldn't take for granted.

Our legislature should reject the "Fair Share" proposal out of hand. We have our problems as much as the next state, but creeping towards socialism isn't the West Virginia way to solve any of them.

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