SEC backs universal health insurance ballot measure

While most of the discussion of universal healthcare coverage takes place outside of the corporate arena, some activist shareholders may have succeeded in forcing the discussion into stockholder debates. Of late, groups of public company shareholders such as religious groups and labor unions have pushed a proposal asking shareholders to vote on a statement endorsing universal health insurance coverage. The statement asks companies to offer official support for universal, continuous, affordable health insurance. Many companies have resisted vigorously, including, interestingly enough, health insurer UnitedHealth.

Their tactic may be working. Over the past several months, the Securities and Exchange Commission has told a group of large public companies--including Boeing, General Motors, United Technologies, Wendy's International and Xcel Energy--that they must include the proposal in their proxies. Generally speaking, companies don't have to let shareholders vote on proposals if they don't relate to a company's ordinary business operations. However, the SEC said that it sometimes is appropriate for shareholders to express views by voting on significant social policy issues--and that it feels healthcare has reached the level of importance necessary to meet such a standard.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this piece in The New York Times