A new report prepared by the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy entitled “Employers Who Have 50 Or More Employees Using Public Health Assistance” released February 1st reveals that a total of 2,914 Wal-Mart workers and dependents relied on tax-supported, public health plans to pay for their health care costs, at a cost to the Massachusetts and federal taxpayer of $2.9 million. The average Wal-Mart worker on the public plans, which included the state’s Uncompensated Care pool for hospital care, and the Medicaid program (which is a 50/50 federal and state paid program), cost the taxpayer around $996 per worker in 2003. Wal-Mart is not alone among retailers on the list. A total of 136 employers are listed by the state, including such large chains as Stop & Shop, McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, CVS, Burger King, Wendy’s, Home Depot, Walgreens, Target, Sears, AJ Wright, Cumberland Farms, Kmart, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Macy’s, Brooks, Big Y, Price Chopper, BJs, The Gap, Family Dollar, Taco Bell, Staples, Best Buy, JC Penny, Old Navy, Kohl’s, Starbucks, and Radio Shack. Wal-Mart had the second highest number of employees and dependents on the list, second only to Dunkin Donuts, which has 3,454 workers and dependents. Wal-Mart had 1,258 employees getting public health subsidies, and 1,656 dependents. Wal-Mart ranked #1 for dependents on the list. The state survey also asked employers to identify what was the employer’s percentage share of the insurance premium paid by the company for its workers. The average employer’s share of insurance premiums was 70%. Wal-Mart had one of the lowest health insurance percentage payments at 52%. The cost to state and federal taxpayers for some other companies are as follows: Home Depot, $830,211; Target, $742,484; Sears, $613,555; Kmart, $326,137; BJ Wholesale, $413,045. Just these six big box retailers cost taxpayers a total of $5.83 million, or 11% of the total subsidies to large employers. Wal-Mart explained its numbers by saying that it has a 6 month waiting list before full-time workers can get health insurance, and two years for part-timers. Part-time workers are not eligible for family coverage at Wal-Mart. “We do not design our plans to be supplemented by public assistance programs, nor do we encourage our associates to apply for them,” a company spokesperson told the Boston Globe.
This is the third or fourth state to produce a study showing how big box retailers score at, or near, the top of the list of firms whose employee benefits are subsidized by public tax dollars. For earlier stories about similar West Virginia and Georgia health subsidies, search the Newflash page by “West Virginia.” Wal-Mart was #1 in West Virginia and Georgia, and #2 in Massachusetts. For a copy of the Massachusetts Health Assistance report, email [email protected] The Massachusetts study was ordered by the state legislature. Similar studies could be requested in any state.