Gov. Janet Napolitano promised Wednesday to craft solutions to the problem of Arizona companies depending on state taxpayers to provide health insurance to some of their workers.
The governor said she was concerned about figures, reported Saturday by Capitol Media Services, that more than a third of all adults getting state-paid health care are employed. That report also showed that 5 percent of workers at several major grocery chains are enrolled in the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid program. Among the largest employers, Wal-Mart topped out with 9.6 percent of its workers on AHCCCS.
"It concerns me because I think it’s illustrative of a bigger issue, which is that private employers, generically, are really having a difficult time paying for health insurance for their employees,’’ the governor said. She said, though, it isn’t just an Arizona issue.
"We are seeing around the country private companies offloading working people onto Medicaid,’’ Napolitano said.
The governor said she is working on some "fairly creative ideas which I am not at liberty right now’’ to discuss to address the problem. She said they are aimed at making it easier for companies to provide affordable health insurance for workers, and for those employees to pay for that insurance.
But Napolitano would not comment on proposed legislation to financially penalize companies that do not provide affordable health insurance for their workers but pay them so little they qualify for AHCCCS. There are more than 1 million people on AHCCCS, including 410,000 adults — and about 160,000 who said they were employed.
Last session, state Rep. Manuel Alvarez, D-Elfrida, sponsored legislation to require companies that employ at least 100 people to reimburse the state if their workers wind up on AHCCCS. That measure, however, did not get a hearing in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Alvarez said Wednesday he will try again this coming year.
State Sen. Richard Miranda, D-Phoenix, is looking at less comprehensive legislation that would apply only to the largest employers — those with more than 100,000 workers.
Napolitano refused to comment on any legislation. But she said it would be wrong to presume the problem is limited to large companies. "We have the most employees . . . in small business,’’ she said. "And we need to work with our small business community in particular.’’