AKRON - Ohio spent $111.5 million in 2007 to cover Medicaid costs for workers who are not enrolled in employer health insurance plans, a new report shows.
Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal think tank in Cleveland, estimates the state covered more than 111,000 workers and their dependents from 50 companies with the highest Medicaid enrollment.
The federal government covered $182 million of the total cost.
Researchers analyzed monthly Medicaid enrollment data to compile a list of statewide employers with the most employees who received government health assistance.
"Right now, we're in a very tight budget," said Piet van Lier, the study's author and a senior researcher at Policy Matters Ohio. "Medicaid is a very big expense - not only for Ohio, but for other states - and here's a substantial benefit going to employers."
Most of the employers are retailers, restaurant chains, and staffing firms.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services warned against jumping to conclusions based on the Medicaid enrollment numbers.
"Eligibility for employer-sponsored health-care coverage does not preclude eligibility for Medicaid," the department said. "Several circumstances could lead people who are eligible for employer coverage to apply for and receive Medicaid."
Wal-Mart topped the list with a monthly average of 13,141 employees and dependents enrolled in Medicaid last year.
Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter said the rankings are "notoriously unreliable" and hard to verify.
He said the company offers competitive benefits to hourly employees who work at least 34 hours a week, but some Wal-Mart employees only work part time. The benefit structure varies depending on employment status, Mr. Rossiter said.
InfoCision, based in northeast Ohio, had a 64 percent increase in Medicaid-enrolled employees from 2004 to 2007, the most of any employers.
The Cleveland Clinic Health System ranked third with a 45 percent increase.
Officials with both organizations attributed the increase to a period of rapid growth and hiring.
About 50 employees of the health system have children enrolled in Medicaid because the children are disabled, spokesman Eileen Sheil said.
Others, such as single parents who work part-time, might opt for Medicaid coverage for their children because of extra benefits offered, such as transportation or help with groceries, she said.
Access to Care, a program that matches about 1,600 uninsured Summit County residents with volunteer doctors who provide their health care for free, said many of their enrollees work one or more part-time jobs that don't provide insurance.
Some enrollees place their children in Medicaid because it has higher family income limits for children to qualify.