Groups Call for Disclosure of Employers with Employees on Medicaid

Hannah Report - November 17, 2005
   

The Hannah Report

Sen. Mark Dann (D-Liberty Twp.) and Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown) joined representatives of several statewide organizations Wednesday in calling for passage of SB103, which requires the state to collect and disclose the names of employers with large numbers of employees on publicly funded healthcare programs such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

“SB103 would require the state to disclose how many millions of taxpayer dollars we are spending each year to provide health care for the employees of Wal-Mart and other large, profitable companies that think it’s acceptable for the people of Ohio to pick up the tab for their workers’ benefits,” Dann said.

After multiple requests, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) only recently agreed to study how such data might be disclosed, he said. Although Hagan introduced the bill in March, not one hearing has been held on it. “Passage of this bill will send a clear message that this information is important to the financial wellbeing of the state and should be made public,” said Dann.

Wendy Patton of Policy Matters Ohio described their search for data in Ohio on employers with employees on Medicaid and their inability to obtain the information although the state is now exploring ways to amass the information on a one-time basis. Available data in other states shows that significant numbers of low-wage workers had no health option but Medicaid.

“As resources have become increasingly strained at the state level, states are facing hard choices about spending priorities,” Patton stated. “We think that this type of analysis assists in the formulation of good public policy and that annual review of such data makes sense from a perspective of good government.”

Jonathan Liebowitz, from SEIU and Justice for Janitors, reported that Wal-Mart, which has over 46,000 employees in Ohio and made $10 billion in profits last year, topped the list in seven states that collect such data. Those states include Wisconsin, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arkansas, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Washington. (See www.goodjobsfirst.org.)

ODJFS spokesman Jon Allen said that the agency is in the process of determining how best to approach collecting the information. “It’s not as easy as just pushing a button,” he said. They have determined that there are over 206,000 assistance groups that have a family member employed.

But that gets more complicated in that entries, such as Wal-Mart, are not done consistently. “For example,” Allen said, “we found Wal-Mart entered 162 different ways.”

He said another meeting is set for Monday to continue exploring how best to approach getting the information.

Cathy Levine, executive director of Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio (UHCAN Ohio), stated that the current Ohio budget eliminates Medicaid health coverage for 25,000 working parents with
incomes below poverty level. (For example, parents in a family of three lose coverage with income over $14,500/year.)

Lack of coverage is associated with absenteeism, job loss, and poor health, all of which have a devastating impact on Ohio’s families and a negative impact on Ohio’s economy. “Before throwing poor people off Medicaid, we should find out if there are large employers who could be contributing to the health care costs of their employees and aren’t,” said Levine. “Why would law makers NOT want this data?” asked Levine.

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