For our company, a paid family leave policy makes good business sense. A key factor in our success as a small business is the longevity of relationships and institutional knowledge established with our clients. Any benefit policy that improves employee retention and helps us avoid the costs of employee replacement and retraining only strengthens our success. However, as a small business, our commercial options to cost-effectively provide this leave benefit are limited, and a publicly-administered family and medical leave insurance fund would correct that. In fact, a Small Business Majority poll released in 2017 found that 61 percent of small business owners support paid family and medical benefit programs set up by the state and funded by employer and employee contributions to pay a portion of the employee’s wages for a limited number of weeks. Five states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that provide such a program, and state legislators recently announced that a similar Family and Medical Leave Insurance Bill will soon be introduced in Ohio.
In a year that included white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, an uptick in hate crimes and increasingly divisive political rhetoric, it is encouraging to read about a grassroots community effort intentionally started to increase conversations about tolerance and acceptance. Acts of hate, both big and small, have become too commonplace in recent years, and communities such as ours must firmly and loudly declare that people of all races, ethnic groups and backgrounds are welcomed neighbors and members of community life.
If the goal of these abortion bans was truly to protect life, there would also be concerted efforts focused on evidence-based policies that prevent unplanned pregnancies through effective and affordable birth control, reduce infant mortality rates, and decrease the number of maternal deaths. Evidence also clearly points to the value and health benefits to Ohio’s women, families, and economy when there is adequate access to affordable preventative health care, family planning services and sex education, prenatal care, livable wages, quality childcare, paid family leave, and higher education. Yet, the legislative agenda of the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly does not include policies that advance these issues. Instead, it focuses on abortion bans, the defunding of health insurance coverage and access for women, and undermining the right of Ohio’s workers to negotiate fair wages and benefits.
Here we go again. This week, another effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is emerging in the U.S. Senate, representing a last-ditch effort to dismantle the law before the September 30th fiscal year deadline under the obscure Federal budget reconciliation process. Like other repeal efforts before it, the Graham-Cassidy Plan would undo the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, which extended health coverage to individuals earning below 138 percent of the Federal poverty level, and ban Medicaid reimbursement for family planning services provided by Planned Parenthood. The plan also allows states the ability to get waivers that let insurers charge sick patients higher premiums for pre-existing conditions and to stop covering certain essential benefits such as maternity care, well-care visits, and preventative screenings. In addition to the Medicaid expansion cuts, the Graham-Cassidy Plan would also drastically cut funding to the rest of the Medicaid program through the use of per-capita caps, which significantly shortchange current state Medicaid spending on non-expansion populations and increase the likelihood that states will need to raise taxes, cut other budget priorities, or make increasingly severe cuts to Medicaid eligibility groups, “optional” benefits like home- and community-based services, and provider payments. For states like Ohio, where coverage was expanded to 723,000 individuals, the Graham-Cassidy Plan would be devastating, rolling back the state’s coverage gains and causing hundreds of thousands of low-income individuals to lose access to health care.
Saturday’s shocking display of hate and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia should be condemned in the strongest terms, and these events are a jolting reminder of how much work remains to be done to stop the normalization of bigotry and white nationalism. Images of hundreds of white men marching through the streets, proudly displaying their signs of neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan pride, will most certainly mark a period of 21st century regressiveness to future generations. It is a shameful moment for our country.