Jeff Krasner covers the release of the State report on employers with 50 or more workers/dependents on MassHealth, the Health Safety Net Trust, and Commonwealth Care on the top of the business section in today’s Globe.
Perhaps the biggest suprise: right after WalMart and Stop & Shop is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a fact noted by several of our blog commentators. We think this is helpful for several perspectives.
First, the report is hugely important, not as an excuse for gratuitous corporate bashing, but as an opportunity for serious examination of how folks are getting benefits in today’s economy. It’s a reality that the large and growing part-time and contract workforce gets the short end of the stick on benefits, and especially on health care.
Second, no one can call the Commonwealth stingy on employee benefits, AND a huge number of full or near-full time employees categorized as “contracters” (including Ron Norton, a regular commentator here), get the shaft. The report is a wakeup call to Massachusetts state government to look at its own practices and make appropriate changes. We understand from informal conversations that this report is triggering that overdue self-examination.
Third, the report should trigger an examination by all employers on the list. Some are service/retail, and others are pretty strong institutions. The State does not have the legal authority to require any employers offer coverage. The State does, we believe, have the right to assess firms part of the cost of coverage for these workers.
Fourth, worth remembering these are only employers with at least 50 workers on these programs. Usually in these discussions, it’s all about small employers, especially the very small with less than 10 workers. This is different. This is not about penalizing employers for not offering coverage — it’s about having larger employers who are getting a public benefit to pay for part of the cost, instead of all costs borne by taxpayers and enrollees. Don’t even need to talk about smaller employers.
Fifth, as everyone knows, health reform has been a major success in enrolling a very large number of formerly uninsured persons (and significantly lowering the state’s uninsured rate) — more to come on this next Tuesday with the release of a major Urban Insitute evaluation. And, as everyone knows, the health reform project is under significant financial pressure. This may get even worse when we hear from the federal government in June on the status of the 1115 Medicaid waiver.
As we face the choice of cutting back on health reform, hitting taxpayers for more, or asking well off employers to pay part of the cost for a valuable public service provided to their workers, seems pretty clear to us which path makes the most sense.