Over 1,500 Oregonians came together on Wednesday, February 11th on the Capitol steps to demonstrate the growing support for Health Care for All Oregon, the single payer/medicare for all movement alive and well (and healthy) in Oregon. Health Care for All Oregon is a coalition of over 100 organizations, including The Main Street Alliance of Oregon, supporting the HCAO mission: "To create a comprehensive, equitable, affordable, publicly funded, high quality, universal health care system serving everyone in Oregon and the United States."
The crowd gathered on the steps of the Oregon Capitol building in Salem. The Rally program included music from Oregon performers such as Norm Sylvester singing The Health Care Blues, the Raging Grannies, Salem’s Dr. Atomic, Anne Weiss, and David Rovics, and "Mad As Hell Doctors.” The Rally also featured inspiring speakers, including elected officials, Senator Michael Dembrow, Representative Williamson & Smith-Warner, as well as many other community members.
Jason Freilinger, Owner Freilinger Electronics
Lee Mercer, HCAO President & MSAO Exec Team Member
Main Street Alliance of Oregon Statewide Leadership Circle member & owner of Freilinger Electronics, Jason Freilinger, spoke about the small business support for HCAO and for the universal health care movement. He echoed the feelings of thousands of small business owners from across Oregon, calling for the State to take action to help Oregon small business owners get out of the health insurance business, and back to focused on running their own businesses—that’s better for everyone.
The Main Street Alliance of Oregon and small business owners around the state continue to push for further health care reforms. There are important opportunities this Legislative Session that will move our state closer to understand exactly how we can create a universal health care system. Main Street Alliance of Oregon Executive Team member, and President of HCAO, Lee Mercer closed the rally with inspiring words, echoing the theme of the day, “everybody in, nobody out.”
On Monday December 15th, Main Street Alliance of Vermont held a press conference and reception to announce their 2015 legislative platform and to release a report of survey findings from a statewide small business survey conducted this past summer and fall.
Dozens of Main Street Alliance coalition members and several legislators were present at the event. Speakers included former Governor Madeline Kunin; Trudy Trombley, MSA member and owner of Truly Trudy's Cosmetics in Stowe and The Boutique at Stowe Mercantile; Stephanie Hainley, MSA member and COO of White and Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors; Representative Jill Krowsinki and Senator Philip Baruth, lead sponsors of this year's Earned Leave bill; Peter Sterling, Director of Vermont Leads, and Andrew Savage, Chief Strategy Office at All Earth Renewables.
Trombley and Hainley reported key findings from the survey, highlighting that out of all businesses surveyed, 49% support establishing a minimum standard of earned leave and just under 60% support moving forward with a universal, publicly financed healthcare system in Vermont.
See the links below for media coverage from the event:
VT Digger (Article) My Champlain Valley (Article & Video) Times Argus (Article) WPTZ (Article & Video)
What Do Vermonters Think About Green Mountain Care?
Vermont’s unexpected election results have led to a lot of speculation among Vermonters and in the media. Many have asked whether this election should be interpreted as a reflection on Green Mountain Care, Vermont’s proposed universal, publicly financed, single payer health care system. My response to this is: Yes. The election results suggest we should move forward.
It’s no secret that the implementation of Vermont Health Connect, our execution of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) – sometimes called Obamacare, has been problematic and troubling to many people. The election is very likely, at least in part, a reflection of people’s dissatisfaction with the rollout of Vermont Health Connect. But that dissatisfaction does not include Act 48, the legislation that established our intent to enact Green Mountain Care, the first universal, publicly financed healthcare system in the country. On the contrary - the legislature, the administration, and the advocacy community should feel encouraged, if not compelled to redouble efforts to move forward with Act 48 and Green Mountain Care.
Moving forward with Green Mountain Care is our way and the best way to move beyond Vermont Health Connect and the ACA and actually improve healthcare. Specifically, implementing Green Mountain Care: a true universal, publicly financed healthcare system, promises to decouple healthcare from employment, decrease administrative overhead, lower cost to consumers, improve access to healthcare, and improve health outcomes.
Main Street Alliance has spent the past four months traveling around the state and speaking one-on-one with hundreds of small, main street business owners about some of the issues facing Vermont, including healthcare. In these conversations, we’ve learned that there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty about Vermont’s efforts to reform healthcare in the context of the existing and federally mandated Affordable Care Act.
There’s been a lot of healthcare reform lately – so much that keeping it all straight is a legitimate challenge. But one thing is clear to us based on hundreds of conversations: proponents of universal, publicly financed healthcare need to effectively communicate with Vermonters about the difference between the ACA and Green Mountain Care. Most importantly, we need to make it clear that Green Mountain Care will move us out of Vermont Health Connect and the ACA and into a system that will be much more akin to providing Catamount or Dr. Dynasaur for all Vermonters, that it will take private insurers out of the equation, decouple healthcare from employment, and be paid for through a progressive tax that will replace premiums. Green Mountain Care is a Vermont healthcare system that will include and cover all Vermonters just because they’re Vermonters.
In our conversations, we’ve found that the majority of small business owners (most of whom are not currently providing healthcare to their employees), are supportive of the idea of a universal, publicly financed healthcare system. Of course, they’re eager to see the financing plan and the benefits package, as we all are, to be able to assess the administration’s specific proposal. But the support for the concept – the support to apply for a waiver to the ACA and to move forward with a universal, VERMONT plan that takes private insurers out of the system - is resounding. As one small business owner from Windham county said: “I’d love to see healthcare come from the state; small businesses can’t afford to offer it.”
Please visit our website to see the list of businesses that have formed a working coalition to support moving forward with universal, publicly financed healthcare in a responsible way. A full report on Main Street Alliance of Vermont’s 2014 Small Business Policy Project will be released in December.
This article was written by Lindsay DesLauriers, State Director at Main Street Alliance of Vermont and resident of Huntington. It was originally published in VT Digger and subsequently in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus.
Is Vermont delivering on the promise of quality, affordable health care for women?
Families depend on both men and women to make ends meet. Women across Vermont are leading households and supporting families. It’s critical to make sure that all women are getting the health care they need to lead healthy, prosperous lives. As the World Bank says: Gender equality is smart economics.
The 2014 Women’s Health Report Card for Vermont underscores that we have a lot to be proud of — Vermont continues to lead the nation in women’s health. In the report card, Vermont was ranked No. 3 and earned a final grade of A. This report ranked all 50 states on 30 measures of women’s health, including coverage, access to care and health outcomes.
I was pleased to see this glowing grade as more evidence that Vermont is on the right track and is a leader in health care. However, I also took this opportunity to educate myself on Green Mountain Care — the next step in Vermont’s health care leadership. I’ll admit that I knew very little about the universal, publicly funded health care system outlined in Act 48. This is something to which the state of Vermont has already committed, and now I can comfortably say that I support this path forward and urge others to get educated.
So what is Vermont doing right? The positive strides of the Affordable Care Act expanded health coverage to more women through the new health insurance marketplaces and through Medicaid, improved coverage of preventive care, created stronger oversight of insurance rates, and increased quality improvement initiatives.
But can Vermont be doing better? Yes. There is room for improvement to ensure that all women in Vermont have access to the health care they need to lead healthy and prosperous lives — especially women of color. Our great report card cannot erase the truth that women of color in Vermont are still less likely to have health coverage, access to health care, and have poorer health.
Looking at the measures of women’s health by race, 6.1 percent of white women in Vermont report being uninsured. That percentage rises to 8.4 percent for black women and then jumps to 17.3 percent of Latinas. Additionally, 11.7 percent of elderly women earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level are uninsured along with 9 percent of those between 138 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level. These upsetting disparities will be erased if Vermont moves to Green Mountain Care in 2017. All Vermonters will have health insurance, just by virtue of being a Vermonter.
Vermont has a special opportunity to achieve the equality that is missing here and throughout the nation. There are many leaders working to balance the financing of this system; to translate the dollars we are already spending on health care into an equitable, universal system. This is enormously complicated, and the devil will truly be in the details. While not increasing the burden on individual Vermonters and Vermont businesses, we need all of our state leaders to side with women and communities of color to make their health a priority — to give our mothers, sisters and daughters full and fair opportunities that begin with quality, affordable health care.
Please join me in supporting our legislators’ commitment to work with the administration to finance Green Mountain Care. And let’s make an example of our state with a true system that is fairly financed, does not harm economic growth and achieves the equality we all deserve.
Stephanie Hainley is Chief Operating Officer at White and Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors in Burlington. She a founding board member at Main Street Alliance of Vermont and is past president of Burlington Business & Professional Women. This op-ed was originally published at the Barre Montpelier Times Argus and subsequently in the Burlington Free Press.
Women and working family issues addressed in new State of Main Street report
Portland, OR - This morning, Main Street Alliance of Oregon leaders, Deborah Field, co-owner of Paperjam Press, and Sara Howe and Christy Cushing, co-owners of Howe Innovative Design, met with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici to release the new survey report, State of Main Street. This report challenges conventional perceptions of small business owners’ thoughts on key policy issues. It details responding business owners’ views on key issues facing Oregon and the nation.Sara Howe, Christy Cushing, Deborah Field, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Stephen Michael, and Sean Place. Photo credit: Kristin Rasmussen, Dist. Rep for Suzanne Bonamici (left to right)
Oregon small business owners are supportive of giving Oregon working families a fair shot—real opportunities to succeed and prosper with policies like basic standards for paid sick days as well as safe, secure, and effective retirement savings vehicles for small business owners and their employees. Women small business owners and business owners of color are particularly supportive of these policies. There is a clear call from the small business community that it’s time to rethink the “business as usual” agendas promoted by Big Business and special interest groups. We need to move towards understanding the whole picture of how our businesses interact with the communities we serve.
“Small businesses are a critical part of Oregon’s economy, especially in rural areas. Policies that support small businesses help create economic security and stability for working Oregonians. These policies include access to capital for those who want to start a new business, quality education, stable housing, and affordable health care,” Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici said. “When families earn a living wage, can take paid leave, and do not struggle to pay for child care, they are more likely to succeed and thrive. The Main Street Alliance report recognizes that these policies are good for small businesses because they lead to healthier families, a stronger local work force, increased consumer spending, and ultimately a stronger local economy.”
“As we continue to recover from this recession, I am committed to helping small businesses remain competitive in today’s market,” said Congressman Earl Blumenauer. “This report, issued by The Main Street Alliance of Oregon, clearly outlines some of the challenges that remain. While I’m concerned the benefits of our economic recovery aren’t being broadly felt, it’s encouraging to know Oregon’s small businesses feel as strongly as I do about the importance of affordable, quality healthcare, reforming our broken immigration system, and ensuring fair and equitable access to credit.”Sara Howe addresses Congresswoman Bonamici on issues impacting her small web, social media and marketing firm.
The Main Street Alliance of Oregon hopes lawmakers, the media and other decision makers will look closely at the results of this survey in planning public policy. We encourage them to listen and respond to the true voices of Main Street.
David Borris, owner of Hel's Kitchen Catering and member of the Main Street Alliance's national executive committee, has a powerful op-ed in today's Crain's Chicago Business. In it, David argues that a stifled minimum wage only serves the interests of the mega-corporations and their lobbyists. His businesses, like millions of other small businesses, is fundamentally different:
My business is local in every sense of the word. My employees live locally, and so do I. I work in the business every day, and I know my staff by name. My office is right next to our catering kitchen — not in a corner office in some Wall Street high-rise. I see the immediate impact that paying good wages has on my employees and their families. CEOs of corporate chains don't.
My customer base is local, too. For my business to succeed, I need a local customer base with enough disposable income to support my business. That means I need a lot of other businesses in my local economy to be paying good wages, too. This isn't rocket science. It's just taking Henry Ford's realization about good wages — that his assembly line workers needed to earn enough to afford the cars they were making in order for his business to thrive — and extending that lesson across the economy.
Big chains don't share this lifelong reliance on a local customer base. In fact, many of them seem more interested in tapping emerging markets overseas than in growing their local customer base. My “emerging market” is the class of 2014 that's about to graduate into a tough job market with too few jobs that pay enough to buy a car, make a down payment on a house or pop the question and call a wedding planner . . . and a caterer.
Read the rest over at ChicagoBusiness.com.
Small business leaders from the Main Street Alliance and our state affiliates weighed in and framed the debate in press coverage of the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act. MSA small business leaders shared concrete, personal stories of how the law is helping their businesses and what small businesses can look forward to now that the law has been upheld and will keep moving forward. A compilation of links and excerpts from the coverage follows!
The decision was embraced at Palm Beach Groves in Lantana, where the business relied on a tax credit to offer health insurance to its employees, all of whom are older and have preexisting conditions, said General Manager and CFO Louisa McQueeney.
“I think it’s great news. It means that we can move forward, the gains we made this year, the premiums being flat and we applied for the tax credit which is $7,400, which is great.”
McQueeney is pleased with the Supreme Court's decision. She took advantage of a tax credit of about $7500 this year and believes other businesses could benefit too.
"You are a business person. There is money sitting there on the table, right there, take it. And provide people with health care," she said.
Louisa McQueeney interviewed on importance of ACA for her business and employees.
MAINE: MAINE SMALL BUSINESS COALITION
Quotes MSBC leader John Costin:
“Provisions of the Affordable Care Act – from rate review to the value for premiums rule to the guarantee that there’s somewhere to go for coverage even if you have a pre-existing condition – are already making a difference for small businesses, and there’s more to look forward to.”
Small business groups that supported health care reform were elated by the decision.
“Small business owners knew we couldn’t afford to go back to the nightmare scenario that health care was for us before reform,” said John Costin, owner of Veneer Services Unlimited in Kennebuck, Maine, and a leader of the Maine Small Business Coalition. “The Supreme Court’s decision means we won’t have to. Instead, we can keep looking forward.”
“Now that the court case is behind us, it's time to put politics aside and get down to implementing the law to maximize the benefits for small businesses,” Costin said.
Gov. Martin O'Malley is highlighting a Columbia businessman's support for the Affordable Care Act as an example of why the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the law matters in Maryland.
At the end of the op-ed, England said feared these savings would be taken away by a Supreme Court decision, but after today's ruling, he can rest easier.
"It's unbelievable," said England in an interview with Patch on Thursday. "I'm walking on air."
NEW JERSEY: NEW JERSEY MAIN STREET ALLIANCE
NJ MSA’s Odette Cohen quoted:
Willingboro physician Odette Cohen, a vocal supporter of the reform law, said she was “elated” by the court’s decision, claiming it will ensure that millions of uninsured residents will have an avenue for obtaining coverage. She also said small businesses like her practice will be able to get more affordable plans for employees.
“This is really good news; the law is in place. There’s hope,” Cohen said Thursday.
Popular components of the law that already have been implemented, such as provisions permitting young adults to remain on their parents’ plans until they turn 26 and preventing insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions, also will be maintained, Cohen said.
NJ MSA small business leaders Kelly Conklin, Henry Passapera, and Odette Cohen quoted in online story; Kelly Conklin featured on radio segment.
Anita Thomas, owner and chief executive officer of AM Thomas and Associates in Plainfield, finds much to like in the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Thomas, who is also executive director of the Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company, was more than happy with the decision — especially since she had just come from a procedure at a doctor’s office after the long-awaited ruling was released.
Opinion piece by NJ MSA’s Kelly Conklin.
NJ MSA’s Kelly Conklin interviewed for BBC World News.
OREGON: MAIN STREET ALLIANCE OF OREGON
Interview with MSA-Oregon co-chair Jim Houser at Hawthorne Auto Clinic.
From Jim Houser, Hawthorne Auto Clinic, Portland, co-chair Main Street Alliance of Oregon: "I joined the fight for health care reform because I knew from painful experience that the insurance companies weren't meeting the needs of small businesses. After nearly 10 years of double-digit premium increases, the ACA provided my small business over $12,000 a year in tax credits and an over 3% drop in premiums. (And my two children were able to rejoin our health plan.) I saw the campaign to reform health care in this country as an investment in the success of my small business.”
The Main Street Alliance of Oregon represents business owners favoring the law. “This is a good day for small businesses in Oregon and across America,” said Jose Gonzalez of Tu Casa Real Estate in Salem.
“We’ve been working hard to make health care reform work for small businesses. Today, we should take a minute to celebrate – and then get back to the work of implementing the law.”
"We're spending over $70,000 a year to cover insurance for our employees," Gilbert, 68, said. "As rates go up, we pay more, then employees pay more for insurance."
But now that Gilbert knows that his business will benefit from a tax credit due to the Affordable Care Act, which was upheld today by the U.S. Supreme Court, he no longer worries as much.
"It's a huge decision for a small business like mine," he said. "We're on the front line to provide insurance to our employees and we will continue to do that now. As long as I am in business, I am dedicated to help my employees. "
On the other hand, the Main Street Alliance of Oregon group gushed over the news. The Alliance represents small businesses that, group officials said, are already benefitting from tax credits and cost controls imposed by the law.
"After nearly 10 years of double-digit premium increases, the (Act) provided my small business with more than $12,000 a year in tax credits and a 3 percent drop in premiums," said Jim Houser, owner of Portland's Hawthorne Auto Clinic and the Main Street Alliance's co-chairman, in a statement.
But another small-business group, the Main Street Alliance, celebrated the court’s decision on its blog. Jim Houser, owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland and a leader of the state affiliate, wrote: “I joined the fight for health care reform because I knew from painful experience that the insurance companies weren’t meeting the needs of small businesses… The court’s decision to affirm the ACA makes this a great day for America and for America’s small businesses.”
880 AM RADIO MEDFORD :: Southern Oregon live talk show, MSA-Oregon co-chair Mark Kellenbeck spoke on ACA as the decision came out.
VIRGINIA: VIRGINIA MAIN STREET ALLIANCE
The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the health care reform law left Tammy Rostov jumping for joy.
"We're very excited; we jumped up and down and hugged when the news was announced," the owner of Rostov's Coffee and Tea in Richmond said Thursday.
"I provide full coverage for employees, and we were close to being priced out of the market," she said, adding that the new law will help prevent that.
WASHINGTON: MAIN STREET ALLIANCE OF WASHINGTON
Commentary by MSA of Washington’s Makini Howell (Plum Bistro, Seattle):
Then, President Obama’s health care reform law came along. When I crunched the numbers, I found out that the law’s health care tax credit for small businesses would immediately cut 20 percent off the cost of insuring my employees. And in 2014, when the law’s fully in effect, that tax credit goes up to about one-third of my costs.
Suddenly, providing health insurance wasn’t just something I dreamed of doing – it was something I actually could do. About three months ago, right around the two-year anniversary of the law, I began enrolling my employees in a health insurance plan for the first time. Let me tell you – that felt good!
Features Main Street Alliance member Jody Hall (Cupcake Royale).
Story of Main Street Alliance of Washington member Laura Waite (Jay's Professional Automotive).
Spokane business and real estate developer Ron Wells called the court ruling a victory for people and business. He applauded the requirement of forcing insurance companies to spend 80 percent of their premium collections on paying medical bills rather than fighting claims, paying exorbitant executive salaries, building rich reserves and hiring lobbyists.
Features MSA of Washington leader Makini Howell.
For Hall, the decision means it will become more affordable for her to continue offering healthcare for her 72 workers. Before the Affordable Care Act, she was subject to annual rate hikes of 20 percent—in 2009 it climbed as high as 40 percent—and in 2011, she paid over $67,000 to cover her workers. But this year, Hill said her premium only went up five percent, an increase she called “unheard of.”
KVI 570 AM RADIO :: Interviews with Main Street Alliance members (Molly Moon Neitzel and Laura McDowell Waite)
KOMO RADIO :: Interview with Main Street Alliance member Jody Hall (Cupcake Royale)
KOMO 4 & KOMO RADIO :: Interview with Laura Waite (small business owner who has a pre-existing condition & relies on the Pre-Existing Condition Plan for coverage)
Q13 FOX :: In-studio interviews with Main Street Alliance members Makini Howell (Plum Bistro) and Jody Hall (Cupcake Royale)
KOMO TV :: Interview with Main Street Alliance member Laura Waite (Jay’s Pro Auto)
KIRO TV :: Interview with Main Street Alliance member Makini Howell (Plum Bistro)
KPLU :: Interview with Main Street Alliance member Molly Moon Neitzel (Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream)
“Some small businesses are actually getting tax breaks. Molly Moon Neitzel is the owner of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream in Seattle. She says since the health law was passed, she’s been able to get tax credits the past two years because she offers health insurance for her employees.”
Congressional testimony may seem a long ways away from cupcake baking, but not for Jody Hall. Hall, owner of Seattle's fast-growing Cupcake Royale and a leader with the Main Street Alliance of Washington, traveled to Washington, DC on May 31 to testify about health care reform before a House committee.
Hall told the story of her business, her commitment to offering health care to her employees, and her support for the Affordable Care Act's state insurance exchanges and other provisions of the law that are putting downward pressure on health care costs for small businesses.
Brianne Harrington, owner of The Painted Pot in Helena and a leader with the Montana Small Business Alliance, had an op-ed printed in the Helena Independent-Record making the case for implementing the new value for premiums (medical loss ratio) requirement.
We won’t fix our broken health care system if we allow insurers to cook the books and go on doing business as usual. We need our health insurance companies to approach the premium value requirement as an opportunity to find ways to increase value and cost savings for their members, instead of trying to circumvent it.
Small business owners focus our best energies on providing good value to our customers every day. We deserve and expect nothing less from our health insurance companies.
New Jersey Main Street Alliance leader Jacquie Germany, owner of Nina's Nuances Interior Design in Montclair, NJ, had a commentary published in the Washington Post on July 10 in support of financial reform and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Jacquie writes:
Small businesses have been devastated by the economic consequences of Wall Street recklessness and abusive lending, with the recession leading to small-business bankruptcies nearly doubling between March 2008 and March 2009.
And small businesses are especially hurt when dollars that our customers and prospective customers could be spending on the goods and services we offer are instead sucked away by bad mortgages, or deceptive credit cards or outrageous overdraft fees.