Washington Proposes Assessment on Employers

In the Washington State Legislature, House Bill 1518 has been introduced that would place an assessment on employers with employees on the state’s medical assistance program (Medicaid). It is being referred to as the Taxpayer Health Care Fairness Act. The language of the bill recognizes that most Washington citizens receive health care coverage through an employer plan but claims that, “some employers with adequate resources fail to offer affordable access to health care services to their employees in Washington State.” We believe that in reality, concepts such as this are a penalty for hiring low income individuals.

If enacted, an employer of 1,000 or more employees (at any and all locations in Washington) will have to report to the health care authority within 30 days of the end of each calendar quarter the employees it employed in the preceding quarter, “including such information as the authority requires and in the form specified by the authority.” The authority will then identify the employees that were under 65 years old and enrolled in Medicaid. While names will not be disclosed, the authority will notify the employer of the number of employees that were enrolled. The employer must then pay the assessment specified in the notice or enter an agreement with the authority to reimburse up to 100% of the cost of the authority’s contribution to the employee’s health care coverage.

The bill gives the authority the right to require the employee to enroll in the employer’s coverage “when it is cost-effective for the state to do so.” It does not state how much the assessment will be or how it will be calculated, and instead leaves it up to the authority to determine. If an employer fails to comply, it is subject to civil penalties based on the amount of the assessment due, but it does provide a process for employers that wish to contest the assessment.

Last year, ERIC was active in preventing a similar proposal from passing in Oregon, and we have already reached out to our allies in the state to begin planning the best strategy to combat this bill. Please let me know if you have an active government affairs team in this region that you would like us to contact or if you have any questions about the bill.

Article by Adam Greathouse, Health Care Policy Senior Associate