Wal-Mart Stores ( WMT) is backing parts of President Barack Obama's push for universal health care.

The big-box discounter, a traditionally right-leaning business, said it supports requiring employers to offer health insurance to workers, an integral part of President Obama's goal to provide near-universal coverage to Americans.

"We are for an employer mandate which is fair and broad in its coverage," Wal-Mart said in a letter to congressional and administration officials. "Any alternative to an employer mandate should not create barriers to hiring entry-level employees."

That was a reference to some proposals in Congress to have employers pay the Medicaid costs of new hires. Critics say that would discourage the hiring of low-income people.

As the nation's largest private employer, Wal-Mart's endorsement could complicate the opposition's united front.

But what's in it for Wal-Mart? It seems it's all part of the retail giant's plan to improve the image of how it treats its employees.

The flip side of mandatory employee health insurance: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is lined up in opposition, says it could force companies to cut jobs and drive others out of business.
Copyright 2009 TheStreet.com Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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