Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

State Employees on Medicaid?

In the unions' efforts to hobble Wal-Mart, they are pushing for enactment of SHB 2517 in the Washington legislature which would require certain expenditures for employee health benefits.

One of their weapons has been a leaked report showing the number of Wal-Mart employees who receive subsidized health care from the state government.

Now, it appears from an article in The Seattle Times that the state also has employees who receive Medicaid assistance -- roughly as many as Wal-Mart.

Earlier state reports showed that an average of 3,180 Wal-Mart workers in Washington were on Medicaid or received the benefits for their dependents in 2004, with a few hundred more on the state-funded Basic Health Plan.

An estimate prepared by nonpartisan state Senate staffers pegged the annual cost of those benefits at about $12 million for the state.

The information released Monday shows that an average of 3,127 state government workers either received Medicaid or had dependents on the joint state-federal health program in 2004.

That cost to taxpayers was estimated at more than $14.7 million.

So, who's the big bad oppressor of the working class?

In the state's defense, the article notes that the state has a lower proportion of employees on Medicaid compared to Wal-Mart:

But state government employs more than 100,000 people, while Wal-Mart has about 16,000 workers in Washington state — making the Arkansas-based retailer's percentage of workers on Medicaid much higher than the state's.

This might be a valid point to make, except that the state's employees include mostly people who work in jobs that generally pay more than the bulk of Wal-Mart jobs. How many retail clerks and "stock boys" do you think work for the state?

Let's see a comparison of the proportion of employees on Medicaid when only the lower-skilled state jobs are included. Granting that the state generally pays more than the private sector in most occupations, it would still be a more valid comparison.


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