Administration Releases Overdue Report On Employers With Workers On Public Health Programs

State taxpayers spent about $760 million for health benefits for workers of large firmsillon

Friday afternoon, the Center For Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) quietly released their annual “Employers Who Had Fifty Or More Employees Using MassHealth, Commonwealth Care, or the Health Safety Net in State Fiscal Year 2010” report, also known as the “50+” report. This annual release, mandated by HCFA-led legislation from 2004, provides information on the number of workers in large firms enrolled in state-sponsored health coverage in FY10, as well as the state’s costs in providing for these workers.

Some key findings:

  • Taypayers spent $759,874,192 in FY10 on public health benefits for 361,725 employees of large firms
    • 264,790 employees in MassHealth, with a cost of $567,355,304 (75% of the total cost)
    • 79,014 employees in Commonwealth Care, with a cost of $142,243,749 (19%)
    • 53,325 employees in the Health Safety Net, with a cost of $50,275,073 (7%)
  • 1,548 employers in the state had over 50 employees on public health programs

These figures represent a reduction in publicly-covered employees from FY09, but a change in methodology complicates this comparison – the report no longer considers self-reported data from employees, and instead compares data from these public programs and DOR wage information.  And while this represents a significant reduction in the number of employees (from 532,155 in FY09, a 32% reduction), the change was not proportionate with the change in cost from these employees (from $793,700,000 in 2009, only a 4.3% reduction.) The number of employers with over 50 employees in these programs has also remained stable, with 1,553 employers appearing on the list in 2009.

The top employers with workers getting public benefits are the Commonwealth, Stop and Shop, Walmart and Target

The other change is that this year the Commonwealth takes first place, with 6,128 employees using public health benefits. As we said years ago, no one can call the Commonwealth stingy on employee benefits. Yet a huge number of full or near-full time employees categorized as “contracters” and are denied benefits. We repeat our call that the report should be a wakeup call to Massachusetts state government to look at its own practices and make appropriate changes.

The report emphasizes that Massachusetts is still a leader in employer-provided health benefits, with 77% of all employers offering health insurance and 97% percent of firms with over 50 employees offering benefits. But to the 5,254 Stop and Shop, 4,327 Wal-Mart employees, and the 2,610 Target employees, this probably isn’t much consolation.

The Patrick administration has proposed repeal of the state’s employer fair share law, which is scheduled to cover firms with 21 or more workers effective July 1. Under the federal ACA, firms with 50 or more workers will be subject to federal requirements beginning in 2014. This report demonstrates the critical need to continue to set a norm that firms are expected to cover their workers. The huge bill Massachusetts and federal taxpayers shoulder to cover workers of very profitable large companies is a scandal.

We couldn’t help notice that the report was released at around 4:00 pm on the Friday of vacation week. We learned almost everything we know about how government works from The West Wing, as we’re sure you did too. So we remember their first season episode, Take Out the Trash Day, where the White House releases a pile of information on a Friday to reduce attention (you can refresh your memory with this clip).

Was this taking out the trash?

There is no press release, and no mention of the report on the CHIA homepage. The report is long overdue, too. It covers fiscal year 2010. The last one, for fiscal 2009, came out in June 2010 (our coverage), 11 months after the end of the year. The fiscal 2008 report came out in April 2009, 9 months after. But it took 31 months to release this report.

We hope CHIA acts more efficiently in getting required reports out (see our comment from 2 weeks ago). We look forward to their new role in opening up the window on Massachusetts health care.
 -Devon Branin and Brian Rosman

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