Of the 50 companies with the most employees on Medicaid in Massachusetts, almost half are retail and restaurant chains...The public cost of ensuring that employees of these companies have health insurance and enough to live on represents, in effect, a hidden corporate subsidy.

A new study shows that big chains like Walmart and Target force large numbers of their employees to rely on the government for health insurance. Meanwhile, responsible small businesses that provide health insurance to their employees do so at a significantly high cost–as much as $24,000 per year for one small bike shop in Colorado with four employees.

Data published by the state of Massachusetts revealed that 4,327 Walmart employees— approximately one-quarter of its workforce — enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program or one of two other publicly subsidized health insurance programs, at a cost of $14.6 million a year to taxpayers. According to the report, Target has an even larger share of its workforce dependent on government health programs, with one-third of its employees enrolled in a program.

With superstores like Walmart and Target already cutting into their profits, it can be extremely difficult for small businesses to afford health insurance for employees. That’s why small businesses need our help more than ever.

Making your purchases at a small business pays off in a far greater way than spending your money at a chain. By supporting local small businesses, you’re helping to make it possible for their employees–your neighbors–to live and work without relying on government programs paid for by your taxes.