Small business owners struggle with health care too.
Here's how Medicare for All would help.
By Kirk White
As a small business owner, health insurance has always been out of reach for me and my family. We've operated Lahontan Storage in Silver Springs, Nevada for about 30 years and even during good economic times, the health insurance plans available to us have been too expensive and the process too complex when you actually try to use the benefits.
Even with the affordable care act, last year, the least expensive bronze plan for my wife and I had a monthly premium of $2375.60 with $6800 individual, and $13600 family annual deductibles. That puts the annual out of pocket costs at $35,307.20 for me and add another $6800 if my wife needs care also. That is before the insurance company pays anything. Even so, the plan only covers 60% of the total cost of care.
So we are expected to pay as much as $42,107.20 per year before the insurance companies pay a dime. That is more than a lot of working couples make in this country.
What happens when you don't have health insurance? You pray that disaster avoids you and try to save money for health emergencies. But family members get sick and bones sometimes break. We always had to prepare for the possibility of paying tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket to get something fixed.
The United States is one of the few industrialized nations in the world where this happens. We spend more money than any other country on health care and see declining health outcomes. Even for people who do have health insurance, the co-pays and deductibles and denied claims often means they are avoiding care and or paying more out of pocket. For instance, my brother-in-law got brain cancer and had insurance through his employer. When he was no longer able to work he lost his job, then is health insurance, then his house, then his life.
Health insurance is so dysfunctional in this country that people are turning to strangers on the Internet to ask for money to pay medical bills. Last year, nearly $650 million was raised on the site GoFundMe to help cover people's medical bills. This is a flashing warning sign of just how off the rails our system has gotten.
Medicare for All is the only solution that makes sense for our country. Under Medicare for All, we would all have access to any doctor we want and there would be no premiums, no deductibles, and no co-pays. Middle class families would pay less in taxes for the system than they do in health insurance premiums today by far.
I've always believed that we need a national health care system. These health insurance and pharmaceutical companies should not be allowed to profit off of illness or other medical disasters.
Right now, small businesses face the brunt of health care costs. The average annual premium for a family is $20,000, that's about $10 an hour just for health insurance, before even paying an employee an hourly wage. Maybe large corporations can handle these costs, but family businesses like mine and hundreds of thousands of others just can't do it.
That's one of the reasons I've joined Business for Medicare for All, a new national organization that is advocating for health care reform by making the business case.
Health care is not only a human right, but an economic necessity. How many other small business owners like myself are out there struggling for years without health insurance? We should not allow corporate greed to govern our healthcare system. I believe Medicare for All will not only save business and individuals billions of dollars, but will greatly reduce the stress that has been imposed on society because of the system that is currently in place. Less stress means a healthier, happier society with improved health for everyone.
Kirk White is the owner of Lahontan Storage in Silver Springs, Nevada.
By Daniel Barlow, executive director of Business for Medicare for All
Each week, we send Wendell Potter all over the country to meet with business leaders and talk about the economic and health benefits of Medicare for All.
We recently sent him to Vermont where he met Sascha Mayer, the CEO and co-founder of Mamava, a lactation space design company. Mamava’s freestanding lactation pods provide breastfeeding moms with a comfortable, private space to pump milk at work and in the world (you may have seen their state-of-the-art pods at airports around the country).
Mamava’s free locator app helps moms find over 5,000 mom-approved places to pump all over the country, and opens Mamava pods with a touch of a button. The company’s mission is to change the culture of breastfeeding to ensure that breastfeeding is a right for all moms, and not just a privilege for the few.
Mamava was founded by Mayer and Christine Dodson—both of whom pumped in bathrooms, supply closets, and cars— in 2013 with the goal of changing workplace culture for all breastfeeding mothers.
“Before Mamava, the challenge of being a breastfeeding mother was invisible,” said Sascha Mayer. “Our units are a form of ‘choice architecture’ that provides a highly visible nudge of support for the pumping or breastfeeding mother, and also telegraphs an employer’s inclusive, health oriented values.”
A Medicare for All system would not only cover their employees with comprehensive health care, but it would also save Mamava money, allowing them to expand their business by manufacturing more pods, creating more jobs, and supporting more moms.
“The cost and complexity of providing healthcare makes starting and sustaining a business more difficult,” Sascha Mayer said. “Within the first three years of business five babies were born to Mamava employees, and a Medicare for All system (not to mention National Paid Parental leave) would be hugely helpful for our little business.”
Mamava is a woman-owned company, B-corp certified, and made in the United States. Business for Medicare for All is proud to have them as a member. The Mamava team are leaders in changing workplaces—and the larger culture— to recognize and support working mothers.
“New moms should not have to choose between going back to work and nursing their newborn,” Wendell Potter said. “More and more businesses recognize that providing dedicated and secure lactation spaces at the office is good for the workforce and the health of babies. A Medicare for All system would ensure that all women, whether working or not, would have access to the reproductive care that they need.”
Thank you, Mamava, for supporting Medicare for All - and being a member of Business for Medicare for All!
P.S. Know a member of the business community interested in health care reform? Tell them to join Business for Medicare for All today and be part of the national movement to reform our broken health care system!
‘Employee’ vs. ‘contractor’ misses the elephant in the AB-5 debate: passing the law won’t win gig workers health insurance
By Daniel Barlow, executive director of Business for Medicare for All
California’s legislative battle over the “future of work” - which would have huge financial implications for companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash - is dancing around the elephant in the room: A new law to recognize gig workers as employees instead of contractors would extend health insurance, the most valuable benefit of “employment,” to very few gig workers. Why? Our antiquated system that ties health insurance to full-time employment.
California’s governor is expected to soon sign AB-5. The bill would extend traditional employment rights to gig economy workers who have historically been considered independent contractors. The tech companies who rely on this workforce claim it will upend their business model. The progressive politicians and labor unions pushing the bill say it will bring much-needed rights and protections to these workers.
At the center of this debate - unspoken in the headlines - is the prohibitive cost of providing health care to workers, by far the most costly benefit to employers and most valuable benefit to employees, offered by traditional employers to their full-time employees.
Even if these gig economy workers become employees at companies like Uber, they will likely become employees without employer health insurance.
Employer-sponsored health insurance has been the hallmark of a good job since businesses began offering it as a recruitment tool during World War II and the wage freezes of the 1940s. These costs were initially minimal and a no-brainer for businesses. Offering health insurance meant attracting and retaining a healthy and productive workforce. If you couldn’t offer a worker more money, you could offer to pay for most of their health care costs.
Flash forward 80 years and the system is outdated. The employer-based health insurance system - backed by a few corporate health insurance companies profiting handsomely off the status quo - has driven the cost of hiring a worker dramatically higher for all employers. The cost of a family plan to an employer in 1999 was about $5,000 a year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Today, that cost is nearly $20,000 -- a 400% increase over two decades where inflation rose only 54%.
That annual $20,000 cost is the difference between employing traditional employees with health insurance and gig economy workers. For companies like Lyft and Uber, with workforces centered in America's most expensive cities, costs could be even higher. And given most gig economy workers do not work those jobs full-time, their health insurance could cost employers more than the income their work generates -- a startling example of how unreasonable and costly our employer-based health insurance system has become.
How, then, will gig companies survive the passage of AB-5 if it says gig workers must receive health insurance? They’ll draw on regulations found in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and state law. The vast majority of people in the gig economy work limited hours, falling far short of the 32 hours of work a week necessary to be considered full-time employees under ACA rules. That rule was created to force employers to provide insurance to their employees. But it was written before companies like Uber existed, and it’s quickly become obsolete.
At Lyft, 91% of drivers work less than 20 hours per week. At Postmates, nearly 90% of delivery workers perform only 3-5 hours per week. It would be a logistical nightmare - much more complex than even the current employer system - to extend health care benefits to these workers. Drivers with rideshare companies, for example, have neither a set schedule or an obligation to continue the work - how would a company pay health insurance to someone who only worked once for them and never again?
And even for gig employees who work more than 32 hours a week, the burdensome cost of health insurance offers little incentive for companies to begin offering that benefit. In fact, the ACA’s tax penalty for not offering insurance to full-time employees was designed to incentivize companies to offer health insurance - but it does the opposite because the penalty is much lower than the cost of insurance.
The average annual premium for a California health plan in 2017 was $8,712 for a single person and $20,843 for a family. Those are high costs for an employer - the price tag on the family plan is essentially equal to paying an employee working 40 hours each week $10 an hour. The alternative is to pay the tax penalty, only $2,500 per year for each full-time equivalent employee.
Three-out-of-four contract and temporary workers don’t have health insurance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These workers have much in common with the growing ranks of full-time employees at small and mid-size companies whose owners can no longer afford to provide health insurance to their workers.
The solution, especially within the context of the AB-5 debate, to exploding health insurance costs is the same: The creation of a national payment program that pays for health care without being tied to a person’s job. This system would maintain costs, enable businesses and workers to pay their fair share and move the U.S. closer to a system that supports workers who often have two or three jobs in the 21st century economy. All workers - gig or otherwise - would have health insurance and all businesses would have a role to play in helping pay for that system, but in a way that is fair, sustainable, and good for the economy.
Medicare for All is the crucial first step toward the creation and implementation of a system of portable benefits - ones that follow workers from job-to-job and career-to-career and are not eliminated or disrupted by a change of employment. As a national business coalition representing companies from small, traditional employers to large manufacturers and gig corporations, we are most concerned with real-world results — for workers and their employers. Regardless of whether AB-5 passes, it’s crucial California’s labor unions, gig companies and elected leaders acknowledge they remain at the mercy of a 1950s health care insurance system that prevents extending affordable health care to a modern workforce.
Daniel Barlow is the executive director of Business for Medicare for All, a coalition of business leaders who believe that guaranteeing health care coverage for Americans regardless of where they work is critically important to maintain profits, grow wages for working families, spur entrepreneurship and compete globally. Find more at www.businessformedicareforall.org.
Business for Medicare for All
For Immediate Release
August 23, 2019
Business for Medicare for All (BM4A) announced this week that it has hired business lobbyist Daniel Barlow as the executive director of the organization devoted to organizing the business community in support of truly reforming the U.S. health care system. The news was first reported by Politico.
Barlow served as the public policy manager at Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) for the last nine years and has worked on the national and state levels to advocate for Medicare for All-style reforms to our broken health care system.
With Barlow's hire, BM4A is also announcing a goal of signing on 10,000 business owners -- with at least one from every congressional district -- and dozens of top CEOs onto Medicare for All by Jan. 2021.
“The employer-based health insurance system hurts economic growth, suppresses wages, and creates a stagnant workforce,” Barlow said. “Options like Medicare for All don’t just improve public health, they also improve our economy. I look forward to working with businesses across the country to harness their voice in support of this pro-business approach to reforming health care.”
Barlow has worked as the policy manager and lobbyist for VBSR since 2010 and previously spent a decade as a journalist in Vermont and New Hampshire. During his tenure as a business lobbyist, VBSR successfully helped pass legislation on health care, climate change, and improving workplace practices and quality.
“As a small business owner, I personally know the negative financial impact that the private health insurance system has on our bottom line,” said Jen Kimmch, the co-founder of Vermont-based brewery The Alchemist and a business advisor to Business for Medicare for All. “Adopting a Medicare for All system would allow businesses to do what they do best – making and selling things.”
About Business for Medicare for All
We comprise business owners nationwide who believe Medicare for All must be the top policy priority of American business. We believe the profit-driven health insurance system poses an existential threat to American business. Health insurance companies lower profits and wages, harm innovation, and hamper international competitiveness. A Medicare for All system is the only business-friendly way to achieve universal health care in America. www.businessformedicareforall.org
Wendell Potter, Business for Medicare for All president, discusses Medicare for All on MSNBC (August 3, 2019)
Health Care Policy Experts Praise Medicare for All as the Gold Standard
July 18, 2019
WASHINGTON -- One day after Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered a major address standing up to the lies and greed of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, a slate of health care policy experts today endorse Medicare for All as the gold standard to reform our health care system and make health care a human right for all Americans.
The health care policy experts cite that Medicare for All would significantly lower the nation’s overall health care costs, improve individual health outcomes and grant access to life-saving prescription drugs to millions of Americans who currently cannot afford them. The experts maintain that Medicare for All is the best policy to improve the existing Medicare program and guarantee universal access to life-saving care. The endorsements of Medicare for All adds to growing support for a national health care system:
The statements from the health care policy experts are below:
For Immediate Release
July 18, 2019
Business for Medicare for All Contact: Will Drabold
Postmates Contact: April Conyers or Vikrum Aiyer
Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann joins Business for Medicare for All
Business for Medicare for All (BM4A), the national coalition representing and organizing thousands of business owners and companies who support a Medicare for All system in the United States, is excited to welcome the technology company Postmates -- the pioneer of on-demand delivery, with the largest delivery network in the industry across 3,500 cities -- to the fight for Medicare for All.
In an op-ed published Monday in CNN, Bastian Lehmann, the CEO of Postmates, announced his company’s support of Medicare for All and urged other gig economy companies to embrace similar policies that will support their increasingly mobile workforce.
Bastian Lehman | CEO, Postmates
Lehmann laid out a bold new policy platform for investing in the economic certainty of workers at gig economy companies. He called on fellow tech industry leaders and elected officials to craft a new social compact that encourages entrepreneurship and guarantees a portable benefits system for workers to better support contract workers in all industries.
Medicare for All is the obvious solution to America’s healthcare crisis, and would ensure that no one ever risks losing access to health care from switching jobs, starting a new business, or becoming self-employed. The average American will change jobs 12 times during their career, a number that is expected to continue growing as younger people often spend less than five years at any job.
"Postmates is one of the biggest names in the gig-economy,” said Wendell Potter, President of Business for Medicare for All. “We’re excited to see them leading the charge on restructuring benefits to be more portable and less tied to the workplace, especially health care benefits. Bastian is setting the pace for all tech CEOs by calling for Medicare for All. But he is far from the last. We will work tirelessly to raise business voices to call for a federally-financed, privately-delivered health care system."
“Gig workers, young people who shift jobs frequently, and entrepreneurs trying to create new businesses all need the security of benefits that will be there for them no matter what,” said Bastian Lehmann, CEO of Postmates. “No one should have to pass up an opportunity because they’re worried about losing health coverage, paying high prescription drug costs, or missing out on a dignified retirement. Businesses like mine must do their part. But ultimately national solutions like a short term public option or long term Medicare for All creates the most portable benefit of all: health care as a right not a privilege.”
To schedule an interview, please contact Will Drabold at firstname.lastname@example.org or Vikrum Aiyer or April Conyers at email@example.com.
About Business for Medicare for All
We comprise business owners nationwide who believe Medicare for All must be the top policy priority of American business.
We believe the profit-driven health insurance system poses an existential threat to American business. Health insurance companies lower profits and wages, harm innovation, and hamper international competitiveness. A Medicare for All system is the only business-friendly way to achieve universal health care in America.
Postmates is transforming the way goods move around cities by enabling anyone to have anything delivered on-demand. With the largest on-demand delivery network in the industry, Postmates now covers 3,500 cities.
Our revolutionary Urban Logistics platform connects customers with local couriers who can deliver anything from any store or restaurant in minutes. We empower communities to shop local with no waiting, and empower businesses through our API to offer delivery.
By Dylan Dusseault
Yesterday, the House of Representatives held a historic hearing on achieving Universal Health Care in the Ways and Means committee. While the hearing was intended to be broad-strokes, it ended up focusing narrowly on Medicare for All.
If you missed it, you can watch the whole thing here, but if you don’t have 4 hours to spare today, let’s run through some highlights.
The hearing started with some extremely compelling testimony from patient advocate Rebecca Wood and her 6 year old daughter Charlie.
Rebecca joined the fight for Medicare for All when her daughter was born 3 months early, weighing barely over a pound. She stayed in the NICU for 3 months, and continually needed treatment for the whole early period of her childhood. Even though the family had employer-sponsored coverage from Charlie’s father, their life savings were wiped out, and they were financially devastated thanks to deductibles, copays, claim denials, and more. Even worse, Rebecca had to choose between Charlie’s treatment and her own, which resulted in Rebecca suffering from painful surgeries, infections, and medical treatments when she chose to prioritize her daughter’s needs.
“I’m lucky Charlie survived. I’m fortunate she thrived. However, it shouldn’t have cost me nearly everything. My story is one of profound policy failure…” said Rebecca. “Her name is Charlie, I joined the ACA and Medicaid fight for her, but I joined the Medicare for All fight for me. I have to believe all of this happened for a reason.”
We also heard compelling testimony from Dr. Don Berwick, a pediatrician, Harvard Medical school faculty member, and the former Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In the interest of full disclosure, Dr. Berwick is a member of the BIHP Advisory Board.
After describing his resume, Dr. Berwick got right to the point.
“I led Medicare for Some” he said. “And my experience made me confident that Medicare for All would be a wise choice for this country”
He went on to describe how Medicare for All would be the most efficient system for meeting the four goals of every healthcare system.
But despite these highly qualified expert witnesses, some members of Congress and witnesses like Grace-Marie Turner (the president of the conservative Galen Institute) decided to carry water for the healthcare industry, repeating their talking points and misleading the public about Medicare for All. Let’s address some of the most common claims they made.
CLAIM: Medicare for All would be too expensive for the American taxpayers to bare.
REALITY: The reality is, Medicare for All would save trillions of dollars over the next 10 years when compared with the status quo of the commercial insurance system. While organizations like the Political Economy Research Institute has found the savings to be around $5.1 trillion, even the libertarian leaning think-tank Mercatus Center found $2 trillion in savings over the next decade.
CLAIM: A single-payer Medicare for All system is a “government takeover of healthcare”.
REALITY Under Medicare for all, doctors, hospitals, and other providers will continue to operate privately and independently. This simply changes the way we finance the system, using a progressive tax system that offers more efficiency than the commercial profit driven multi-payer system.
CLAIM: Medicare for All would limit choices for patients and families.
REALITY: Right now, if a patient is lucky enough to have coverage, they must choose between a narrow network of doctors and hospitals. Medicare for All would give people more choices than ever, and finally allow them to go to any doctor, hospital, specialist, or provider they want to see.
CLAIM: Medicare for All would threaten Veterans and Seniors.
REALITY: Under the House Medicare for All bill, the Veterans Administration would be left in place, but, in addition to those benefits, veterans would also have the ability to access a wider range of doctors and providers instead of being forced to travel to a VA facility. The Medicare for All bill would also significantly expand benefits for current Medicare beneficiaries, while eliminating their deductibles and copays.
CLAIM: Medicare for All would create long-waits, rationing, and inability to access care.
REALITY: Our current system is what causes rationing. Last year, 44% of Americans didn’t go to a physician when they were sick or injured. 40% said they skipped a recommended test or treatment due to cost. 32% said they were unable to fill or decided to ration a prescription due to cost. Largely thanks to this self-rationing, we lag behind on life-expectancy, infant mortality, hospitalizations from preventable illness, and more. Medicare for All would finally eliminate all financial barriers to care.
There’s a long way to go in the fight for Medicare for All, but this hearing was a huge step, and gave us a chance to see the opposition in action. They’ll keep attempting to obfuscate the truth with fear tactics. The American public can and will keep demanding better.
By Dylan Dusseault
Before this week, you might not have heard of Rep. John Delaney, a moderate Democrat from Maryland who is running for President. In fact, he was technically the first Democrat to run for President (he announced just 7 months after the inauguration), but that doesn’t seem to be doing him much good.
If you’ve heard of him recently, it’s probably because, over the weekend, he went to the California Democratic convention, said Medicare for All is “not good policy, nor is it good politics,” and claimed it would “kick 150 million Americans off their healthcare.”
He then proceeded to be loudly booed non-stop for a minute and a half.
Apparently, the Delaney campaign has been busy traveling the country and talking to voters, but it doesn’t seem like he’s done much listening, because he’s come to a profoundly wrong conclusion.
It’s no secret that healthcare is consistently found to be the leading issue among voters in recent election cycles, and it’s easy to see why.
Everyone knows someone who’s been devastated by the American healthcare system, and most of us have faced the strain of it ourselves. Premiums and deductibles never stop rising, out of pocket costs keep increasing, it’s eating up larger portions of our wages, it’s outgrowing inflation and hurting the bottom line for employers, and it’s forcing patients to ration care, leading to worse health outcomes, and even death.
Even a comfortable middle-class family lives under the threat of a surprise medical bill driving them to bankruptcy. Or maybe they worry that when they need the insurance they’ve been paying into their whole lives to cover a medical procedure, they’ll end up getting their claim denied instead.
It is difficult to imagine a less efficient and more expensive system.
That’s a big part of the reason why 70% of Americans support Medicare for All, including 85% of Democrats who John Delaney is currently trying to woo, and 52% of Republicans.
Not a lot of issues poll at 70% approval. Sounds like pretty good politics to me.
Now let’s talk policy. Mr. Delaney either doesn’t know what an effective policy tool Medicare for All will be, or he’s unwilling to face the facts. Either way, not a great look for a Presidential hopeful.
Let’s start with the obvious: The current, multi-payer system is economically unsustainable.
I assume that when the Congressman claimed that 150 million people would be kicked off their insurance, he was referring to those of us who get our insurance through the workplace. However, the value of employer-sponsored insurance has been completely deteriorating.
The same costs that are straining families and patients are also a disaster for small and mid-sized businesses and workers.
Over the past 10 years, premiums in the employer-market have gone up 55%, and an employer-sponsored family plan now costs an average of 19,616 a year per employee. Even though these premiums costs are rising, the plans are actually getting worse. Worker deductibles have gone up 212% in the last decade, far outpacing inflation and wage growth.
Because the plans are getting more expensive and covering less, people with insurance through their workplace are the largest driver of the growing “underinsured” rate.
So to review: money that could be going to job creation, new products or marketplaces, raising wages, or keeping competitive internationally is going to health insurance companies, who are serving as nothing more than bloated and inefficient middle-men, and aren’t providing adequate coverage.
Medicare for all would finance healthcare with a lower cost, manageable, and predictable tax rate that would ensure every single person in this country had comprehensive coverage without financial barriers.
The impact on economic growth goes beyond the hundreds of millions we would save in healthcare spending every year. That’s why, last month, over 200 economists signed on to a letter endorsing Medicare for All on the basis that it was a “Win-Win.” A more healthy populace is a more productive populous. It’s that simple.
I’m not sure what’s motivating Delaney to shun good policy and good politics, but I am sure I don’t trust the political instinct of a man polling near .05%. I just hope all the other candidates heard the boos loud and clear.
By Clark Lunday
This week, Joe Biden candidly described his thoughts on a major demographic of the Democratic coalition, castigating their pessimism. From the video:
BIDEN: The younger generation now tells me how tough things are. Give me a break. No, no, I have no empathy for it. Give me a break.
When the former Vice President and long-time Senator was still “considering” joining the race for the White House, he was singing a different tune:
BIDEN: “I have the most progressive record of anybody running … anybody who would run”
It is difficult to see how Biden can be “progressive” while harboring so little empathy. The only explanation is a complete lack of awareness for the problems of the modern economy, which is clearly demonstrated by his healthcare plan.
Nearly every American has been directly hurt by soaring premiums, growing underinsurance and rising deductibles that place a huge burden on families and American businesses. There’s considerable evidence these expenses drag down the entire economy and limit prospects for young people who are forced to square greater expenses with stagnant wages. And the effects are hardly contained to youth; at 17.9% of our GDP, wasteful healthcare spending finds a way to mark most family budgets.
Other leading candidates have committed to a sweeping “Medicare for All” legislation. That promise is a signal to millions of frustrated and dejected American business owners, workers, patients, and families who are in desperate need of relief.
Not Biden. He’s on the campaign trail, out there reminding voters he alone has the audacity to keep things the same. When voters call him out and ask WHY he is so nonchalant about this travesty, his response is to proffer the obvious lie that he just doesn’t have time to explain it.
Still, it’s not hard to interpret where he stands. Biden has been rightfully anointed as the savior of insuranceand has no problem accepting contributions from bad actors. If he does make it to the White House, the road will have been paved with funds from private hospitals, Big Pharma, and insurance companies. Biden’s bold plan to distinguish himself in a crowded primary field is to proudly wear the banner of the unaffordable status quo.
He assumes he can get away with the standard post-citizen-united political playbook: promise little to everyday Americans while promising the world to nefarious, well-connected donors.
It’s time for a candidate who is willing to be a champion for American healthcare. Joe Biden isn’t it.