California fights Walmart over Medicaid costs

The Affordable Care Act is coming. No matter how many times Republicans vote against it (39 and counting!) it’s here to stay. While that’s good news for many workers, it can mean bad news for bigger companies like Walmart. Already, some companies are planning on cutting the hours (and wages) of full-time employees to avoid having to pay for insurance and other benefits. The government of California doesn’t think that’s right. Here’s why.

When a company like Walmart pays dismal wages, its employees turn to government programs like Medicaid, food stamps, and subsidized housing to make ends meet. In some cases, Walmart even encourages employees to seek government assistance. (Occasional Planet ran a great article on this earlier.) While the company makes billions of dollars in profit, it expects the government to foot the bill for services to these impoverished employees. This system has been in place for years, with many companies besides Walmart exploiting workers and the government. The Affordable Care Act is throwing a new complication into this formula by adding thousands of new workers who will become eligible for healthcare. Walmart intends on denying these people that right and shifting responsibility onto the government like it’s always done. But California is saying enough is enough and trying to pass legislation that will fine large corporations $6,000 for every full-time employee that ends up on the state run Medicaid program.

Sonya Schwartz, a program director at the National Academy for State Health policy says, “Accurate and timely data on Wal-Mart’s wage and employment practices is not always readily available. However, occasional releases of demographic data from public assistance programs can provide useful windows into the scope of taxpayer subsidization of Wal-Mart. After analyzing data released by Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, the Democratic staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce estimates that a single 300- person Wal-Mart Supercenter store in Wisconsin likely costs taxpayers at least $904,542 per year and could cost taxpayers up to $1,744,590 per year – about $5,815 per employee.”

And that’s just for one Walmart Supercenter. (There are about 120 Walmart stores in Missouri where I live, and about 180 in California.) It’s shocking that government has put up with paying that amount for so long. We can only hope that the legislation in California passes and spreads to other states quickly.