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January 26, 2011 at 12:12 PM

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Costco CEO makes pitch for Obama's health-reform law

Posted by Kyung M. Song

WASHINGTON -- Jim Sinegal presumably can spot a bargain -- and the chief executive of warehouse giant Costco thinks the new health-care law is a good deal.

Sinegal on Wednesday became the latest pitchman to tout the Affordable Care Act that President Obama signed into law in 2010.

Since before the House Republicans voted to repeal the law last week, the White House has released a steady stream of testimonials from ordinary Americans who are benefiting from the overhaul. At the same time, the Obama administration has enlisted business executives, governors (including Chris Gregoire), mayors and others to publicly defend the law.

During a conference call Wednesday with reporters with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Sinegal said Costco hasn't been immune to the huge leap in health-care costs. The Issaquah company now spends nearly twice as much on health premiums, $8,200 per worker, than it did in 2001. But Sinegal considers the costs a worthy investment, one that helps the retailer keep its employee turnover to a low 10 percent a year.

"It's a rich plan," Sinegal said. "We think it's good business."

Costco operates 582 stores, including 425 in the United States and Puerto Rico. The rest are in Canada, United Kingdom, South Korea and four others countries, most of which Sinegal said "have some sort of national health insurance."

The White House is banking on the specific provisions of the law -- including rebate checks to help seniors with prescription-drug coverage and tax credits offsetting a third of the premium costs for small businesses -- to build support among consumers.

Sinegal offered no details on how the law has benefited his workers or Costco's bottom line so far.

But Sinegal said it's sensible to expect, for instance, that insuring more Americans would cut down on expensive emergency-room visits and provide them with better preventive care.

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