Independent We Stand, June 20, 2013
It costs the Old Town Bike Shop in Colorado Springs about $24,000 a year to provide health insurance for four employees, according to owner John Crandall. Meanwhile, his largest competitors, Walmart and Target, foist much of their health care costs onto taxpayers, according to new data released by Massachusetts, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
By leaning on taxpayers, these chains are gaining an unfair financial advantage over more responsible businesses. “It’s disturbing,” said Crandall, who added that paying for health insurance was especially difficult last year when the shop didn’t turn a profit.
Data published by the state of Massachusetts reveal that Walmart has 4,327 employees — approximately one-quarter of its workforce — enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program or one of two other publicly subsidized health insurance programs. Insuring these employees and their dependents costs taxpayers $14.6 million a year. Target has an even larger share — more than one-third of its Massachusetts workforce, or 2,610 people — enrolled.
Eligibility is based on several factors, but adults are generally eligible for Medicaid in Massachusetts if their income is below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,000 for a single person. Children are eligible when their families earn less than 150 percent of the poverty level.
Stacy Mitchell is a senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, where she directs initiatives on independent business and community banking. She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and also produces a popular monthly newsletter, the Hometown Advantage Bulletin. Connect with her on twitter and catch her recent TEDx Talk: Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to a Better Economy.