I favor Gov. John Kasich’s proposal to expand Medicaid coverage in Ohio to families with incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (“Ohio Senate drops Medicaid expansion,” June 6).
In the 45 years since I first picked up a mop for my family’s building services business, where the workers are members of a union, I have seen the federal hourly minimum wage slip from $10.69 (in today’s dollars) to $7.25. Although our company has always paid our employees a wage over the federal minimum, our workers’ real compensation has shrunk over the years. All of this was in response to the competitive pressures of the market.
Fringe benefits are also a story of retreat. Our business used to provide health insurance and a contribution to our union’s pension plan, but such benefits are virtually unheard of in our industry in Toledo today. The market forces that pushed wages lower also worked to eliminate most of the fringe benefits we once provided.
None of this should surprise anyone. A market-driven economy, while certainly the best allocator of resources, does not consider fairness or justice as it sets compensation levels.
The laws of supply and demand contain no provisos that wages must be sufficient to sustain a decent standard of living. And yet as a nation, we think that our citizens should not starve to death, or freeze to death, or go without health care of some sort.
To prevent those outcomes, we have mandated that our society, generally through our governing bodies, provide assistance with food, housing, and medical care. But in this last field, as much research shows, we have been sorely lacking, especially with regard to the working poor.
Now our Republican governor, supported by many (but apparently not enough) Republican state lawmakers, has offered a plan to provide needed medical assistance to the working poor, with virtually all the money coming from the federal government. It stuns me that some lawmakers, in their zeal to derail the Affordable Care Act, will refuse to allow Ohio to participate in this plan.
As a recent Rand Corp. study indicates, states that do not expand their Medicaid coverage as provided in the Affordable Care Act will give up billions of dollars in federal payments and incur substantial bills for uncompensated care. At the same time, these states will deny access to millions of their residents who would otherwise be covered.
As an employer who has seen the increasing need for affordable medical care for hard-working and poorly paid people who do the unglamorous tasks of our society, I hope the reluctant members of our state legislature will have a change of heart.
Editor’s note: The writer is co-owner and president of Toledo Building Services Co.
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