Attention Shoppers: You Pay the Health Insurance Bills For Some of New Jersey's Largest Employers

By Mary E. Forsberg

INTRODUCTION

One reason so many people like to shop at big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot is low prices. What consumers might not realize, however, is that they often are paying twice: once at the cash register and again when they pay taxes. That’s because some of the largest, most profitable retailers in the state also have the largest numbers of employees and their families covered by a state-run health insurance program for low-income New Jerseyans that has a price tag approaching $400 million in state and federal funds this year.

An analysis of NJ FamilyCare enrollment data shows that a state program that might be expected to meet the needs of self-employed workers and those whose employers are too small to afford health coverage is also very widely used by the families of large employers. Six of New Jersey’s 10 largest employers have no one in FamilyCare. The four that do are: Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club, Wakefern Food Corp/ShopRite, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., Inc. (A&P), and Home Depot. Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club, the eighth largest employer in New Jersey, has more employees and employees’ family members in the state health program than any other employer.

While employees of individual retail and supermarket chains, and their families, are among the largest users of the state health program for low-income working people it is ironic that the sector with the most participants overall is health care. More than 10,000 of the children enrolled in FamilyCare have a parent who works in that field.

This report provides information never before released on who uses FamilyCare, a program that will cost state taxpayers more than $175 million this year. The twin issues of who is served by the program and how much it costs require policy analysis and decision making by the state at a level beyond what has taken place so far.

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