I am Patricia Moss and I am the proud president of AFSCME Ohio Council 8 representing 41,000 public employees in Ohio. Nationwide AFSCME represents more than 1.3 million working Americans.

Our members like most Ohioans find themselves in the midst of this fight for affordable, quality health care. As so many speakers will tell you today there are 1.3 million Ohioans without health care. Every 8th person you pass on the street in Ohio does not have health insurance.  Count them the next time you go for a walk.

Many of you may think that union represented employees don’t need to be concerned about health care coverage. Well those days, if they ever existed, are gone. Across the nation, in states where we have the data, we see a growing number of union represented public employees on Medicaid—the government health care program for low income individuals who do not have health care.

Ohio unfortunately does not collect data on the number of public employees on Medicaid, so we don’t know the numbers. But we know they exist as public employers continue to reduce their health care benefits.
In Texas where we do have data, 15 of the 20 employers identified in the state's report of employers with employees whose children are on Medicaid, were public employers—mostly school districts.
In Massachusetts the City of Boston is number 6 on the list of employers with 50 employees or more who have employees using public health assistance. 
How can it be that public employers, which have historically offered decent health care benefits, are now beginning to contribute to the nation's uninsured working population? Strapped for cash, many states are reducing their own employees' access to health benefits by relegating them to part-time or temporary status, or increasing their contributions to a point where they simply cannot afford health care.

After 5 years of double digit health care cost increases, no longer are public employers willing to allow employees to keep their health care in exchange for giving up wage increases. Every where we look, we see that the deal is off—a deal that cost our members year after year of wage increases. 

And there is a growing number of public employees whose entire paycheck goes for their share of the health care premium. Some find that even after giving their entire paycheck to cover health care, they still owe their employer money for their health care.

We know that 46 million Americans have no health insurance. Another 16 million are in a new category of underinsured. That means these folks spend more than 10% of their income on health care costs.

With escalating health care costs and massive cost shifting to employees we are not only a nation of insured and uninsured, we are a nation of those who have insurance and can afford to use the benefit and those who are insured but cannot afford to use the benefit due to escalating deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays.

Indeed 21% of adults both insured and uninsured have medical debt they are paying off over time. For 44% of them the debt is in excess of $2,000. And no surprise the number one reason for bankruptcy in this country is due to medical expenses.

With every percentage increase in health care costs it is likely that 500,000 people are added to the uninsured as employers either stop offering health care or make it so costly that employees cannot afford to enroll in it.

We have an employer-sponsored health care system in this country. People generally get their health care through their employment. Yet nearly 40% of US employers do not offer health care coverage to their employees.  Nearly 60% do not offer retiree health care benefits.

Of course if you are uninsured you are less likely get needed medical treatment or fill your prescriptions. Because of that the National Academy of Sciences estimates that lack of health insurance leads to 18,000 preventable deaths in the United States. That is equivalence of the losses suffered through 6 9/11’s each year.

This lack of health care coverage has serious impacts on our nation’s ability to compete in the global market place. Benefits cost in the United States equals 29% of payroll. While in Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom it is closer to 17%. And the reason for this increased benefit cost in the United States is due to the cost of employer sponsored health care.
Starbucks spends more on health care for their employees than they do on coffee. The auto industry spends more on health care than it does on steel for its cars.

Every car built in America has an additional $1200 in costs due to our inefficient health care system. That makes it very difficult for our auto industry to compete in the global market place. And is it any wonder that GM had its bond rating downgraded to junk bond status—because of its staggering health care costs for its employees and retirees.

So at the same time we are losing our manufacturing sector in the US due to this health care crisis, the number of citizens on Medicaid due to lack of health insurance is increasing. In Ohio the number of non-disabled adults on Medicaid increased by 31% in the last 6 years. These are people who either lost their job or lost health care because their employer stopped offering it or made it too expensive for the employee to afford. So we lose the tax base provided by the manufacturing sector that helps fund programs like Medicaid at the same time we are experiencing increased demand on such programs. This is a public policy disaster.

And while our manufacturing sector cannot compete globally, foreign manufacturers are not building plants in America either. In fact, when Toyota was deciding where in North America to place its next auto factory it by-passed numerous offers of tax subsidies in the United States and opted for Canada due in part to its national health care system. Canadian workers are $4 to $5 cheaper to employ in large part because of the taxpayer-funded health-care system in Canada.

So while we are in the midst of this health care crisis what does the Ohio Legislature offer us as solutions?

First for school employees the legislature wants to take our members’ right to negotiate health care benefits away. HB 66 once fully enacted will strip hundreds of thousands of school employees of their right to negotiate over health care benefits. These are the same people who have year after year sacrificed wage increases to keep affordable health care. This no solution to the health care crisis we face in Ohio. And if you want to help stop this plan please sign one of the post cards to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate circulating in the audience urging them to keep their hands off our health care and we will make sure they get delivered.

The second solution this legislature has offered us is to force every public employer to offer a high deductible health savings account. These accounts do nothing to help the 1.3 million Ohioans who do not have health care. HSAs do nothing to add needed improvements to the health care system.

HSAs will negatively impact employers’ traditional health care plans as healthier employees leave those plans for the HSAs. HSAs will also make lots of money for countless brokers who manage these accounts. And for those who can afford them, they will provide some tax relief. For those who can’t afford to put $1,000 to $2,000 a year in an HSA they will simply not select health care. And if their income is low enough they will end up on Medicaid.

So while HSAs will reduce the amount of tax dollars coming in, they will also increase the demand for Medicaid. This is not the kind of public policy that our lawmakers should be setting as we address this health care crisis.

We need real health care reform. We need to deliver a wake up call to this legislature that this health care crisis must be addressed. My union, AFSCME Ohio Council 8 will continue to link arms with organizations that are fighting for affordable, quality health care.

So many of our great social programs like Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, the public school system and workers compensation came about because labor unions joined with others to advance these causes. We will win this fight because of our joint efforts and you can count on AFSCME to be at the front of this fight.

Bullet Points for Legislators

  • Single Payer saves money.  For the past 20 years, states have commissioned studies on different types of health care systems.   In EVERY case, single payer was shown to be the only way to cover everyone and the only system that saved money and controlled costs.

  • Publicly financed does not mean government run health care.  YOU have publicly finance health coverage, but the government does not make decisions regarding your health care.

  • Cost conscious patients often don't get the care they need.   Most decisions are made by the doctor in concert with the patient, but the patient relies on the doctor's knowledge to make a decision.  Expensive tests and treatments cannot be ordered by the patient, only the doctor.

  • Lifestyle choices are not what is fueling high costs in health care.   The United States ranks low in general health indicators, but high in good health habits.  We smoke less, drink less and consume less animal fat that many other countries with better health indicators and much lower health care costs.

  • Businesses can accurately determine their health care costs and are not subject to unanticipated large premium increases.

  • It will reduce labor costs due to a more efficient way of financing health care, eliminating much wasteful administration.

  • Workers' Compensation costs will be reduced, likely by half, due to the fact that everyone has health coverage and there is no need for the medical portion.

  • It reduces the need for part time employees and provides easier recruiting.  There are no pre-existing conditions or Cobra issues.

  • Eliminates the oversight of health benefits and bargaining health coverage with employees.

  • It creates healthier personnel and more stable employees, reduces absenteeism and eliminates employer health coverage complaints.

  • It reduces employee health related debt and personal bankruptcies.

  • It frees up family income that can be spent on other goods and services, thus stimulating the economy.

Tips for Writing Letters to Editor

Follow guidelines for your local paper (word count, submission instructions, etc.)

Frame your letter in relation to a recent news item Use state specific data whenever possible (let us know if you need help finding some!)

Address counter arguments

Be aware of your audience and emphasize how Medicare for All is good for ALL residents of the state

Criticize other positions, not people Include your credentials (especially if you work in the healthcare field)

Avoid jargon and abbreviations

Don’t overload on statistics and minor details

Cover only one or two points in a single letter

Avoid rambling and vagueness


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