Two years ago, Wal-Mart workers and their children cost the taxpayers of Massachusetts $7.2 million for subsidized health care. A new report released this past week shows that this tax subsidy has more than doubled to $15.5 million. In the middle of one of the worst budget crises in state history, health are welfare for large national chain stores are a drag on the state and federal taxpayer. On February 12, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that an annual report released by the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, revealed that state taxpayers in the Commonwealth spent $7,223,580.77 to provide subsidized health care insurance for Wal-Mart workers — the highest cost any employer shifted to the state. The study, “The Use of Public Health Assistance in Massachusetts in FY 2006: Employers Who Have Fifty or More Employees Using MassHealth or the Uncompensated Care Pool,” is the third such analysis of employers who have 50 more workers using public health assistance. A state law passed in 2004 requires the state to produce such studies. The report released in 2007 covered the period July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006. The analysis estimates that in FY 2006, a total of $234.2 million in public funds were spent on health care for employees and their dependents working for employers who had 50 or more employees subsidized by two major state health care programs: Medicaid and the Uncompensated Care Pool. The state reports estimates that a total of 6,070 Wal-Mart employees and dependents are costing state taxpayers $7.223 million a year. Of that total, 1,038 Wal-Mart employees used the Uncompensated Care Pool, 2,079 Wal-Mart employees were on Medicaid, and 2,953 dependents of Wal-Mart employees, mostly children, used benefits paid for by Medicaid. The cost of Wal-Mart dependents alone came to $4,328,155. According to Wal-Mart, the retailer had 10,785 employees in Massachusetts. Using the FY 2006 figure of 3,117 Wal-Mart workers on Medicaid and UCP, that means at least 29% of Wal-Mart’s workforce in the Baystate received their health care subsidized by the public. Other national chain stores are high on the list. Home Depot ranked number 9 on the list, with 2,130 employees and dependents on state-subsidized health care, costing taxpayers $2,567,929. Target ranked 11th with 1,982 employees and dependents being subsidized, at a cost of $2,348,794 a year. Other national retailers on the list include Walgreen’s, Sears, Macy’s, Kmart, Brooks, Kohl’s, Albertsons, Whole Foods Market, BJ’s Wholesale Club, JC Penney, Lowe’s, Best Buy, Toys R Us, Filene’s, Lord & Taylor, Old Navy, Victoria’s Secret, and Circuit City. But Wal-Mart holds the distinction of being the #1 highest cost to the state for subsidized health care for its workers and their dependents, and the highest number of workers and dependents using state health care programs. This week, DHCFP released its use of subsidized health care in state FY 2008, and many of the same national retailers are still dominating the list. The Division reports the total number of employees, their dependents, and the cost of services used, by program, for each employer with 50 or more employees using state subsidized services. The report finds that an estimated $793.7 million in public funds were spent on health care services through MassHealth, the Uncompensated Care Pool, Commonwealth and other subsidized health programs. Just over 302,000 employees received publicly subsidized care at a cost of $490.7 million to the taxpayers. In addition, over 230,000 dependents of these employees received publicly subsidized care at a total cost of $303.0 million. The total subsidy for employees plus their dependents came to $793.7 million. This is almost a 25% increase in cost over the FY 2007 cost of $636.8 million. The number of Employees and their dependents using publicly subsidized care grew by 12.2%. Wal-Mart remained #1 on the list of large employers with subsidized health care. A total of 4,796 Wal-Mart workers relied on state and federal taxpayers for their health care support. Adding workers and dependents, Wal-Mart cost the Commonwealth $15.5 million. This is more than twice the subsidy of $7.223 million for Wal-Mart workers and dependents in FY 2006. As of March, 2009, Wal-Mart had 11,681 workers in Massachusetts. The new state report means that at least 4 out of 10 Wal-Mart full-time employees are using state-subsidized health care.
A state health care reform law in Massachusetts requires companies with more than 10 full-time workers to have 25% of those employees enrolled in a company plan or pay 33% of workers’ premiums. Companies with more than 50 employees must meet both requirements. Those that don’t meet the thresholds must pay $295 per employee into a pool for the uninsured. In addition to number 1 ranked Wal-Mart, other national chains stores remained prominent on the list: Target was #6 on the list, with 2,479 workers, and a total cost of $5.65 million to the taxpayers; Home Depot, with 1,685 workers on the rolls, ranked #16, and cost taxpayers $4.66 million. Pharmacy chain CVS was #10 on the list, wth 2,276 subsidized workers, and Walgreens was #22 on the list, costing taxpayers $3 million. Among the top 25 companies on the state subsidy list, these 4 retailers cost taxpayers $36 million in FY 2008. For a complete copy of the new state health care report, go to: http://www.mass.gov/Eeohhs2/docs/dhcfp/r/pubs/09/50_plus_employees_04-09.pdf. Readers are urged to print this report out, and mail it to your State Senator or State Representative, urging the lawmaker to get your state to publish a report of all employers with more than 50 workers that use taxpayers supported health care. There are only a handful of states like Massachusetts which publish such reports. As a result, many local officials fail to consider the net cost to taxpayers of adding more low-wage retailers like Wal-Mart to the state welfare rolls. Companies like Wal-Mart continue to boast about the quality and scope of their health care plans, but as this Massachusetts employer reports shows, 41% of Wal-Mart’s workers turn to state taxpayers to pay for their health care bills. The new Massachusetts report is likely to place more pressure on state lawmakers to require large employers to pay more towards the cost of their worker’s health care. Health care remains a hidden subsidy that local officials rarely factor into their analysis of a superstore proposal.