Why Some CEOs Figure ‘Medicare For All’ Is Good For Business


EASTON, Pa. – Walk into a big-box retailer for example Walmart or Michaels and you're likely to see MCS Industries' picture frames, decorative mirrors or kitschy wall décor.

Adjacent to some dairy farm a few miles west of downtown Easton, MCS is the nation's largest maker of such household items. But MCS doesn't actually make anything here anymore. It's moved its manufacturing operations to Mexico and China, with the last manufacturing jobs departing this city across the Delaware River in 2005. MCS presently has about 175 U.S. employees and 600 people overseas.

“We were going to lose the company because we were no longer competitive,” CEO Richard Master explained. And something of the most popular impediments to keeping labor costs in line, he said, has been the increasing expense of coverage of health in the usa.

Today, he's in the vanguard of a small but growing number of business executives who're lining up to support a “Medicare for All” national health program. He argues not too healthcare is really a human right, but that covering everyone having a government plan and decoupling healthcare coverage from the workplace would benefit entrepreneurship.

In February, Master stood with Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) away from Capitol after she introduced her Medicare for All bill. “This bill removes an albatross in the neck of yankee business, puts more money in consumer products and will boost our economy,” he said.

As health costs continue to grow, straining employer budgets and slowing wage growth, others in the business community are starting to take the option more seriously.

While the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce along with other large business lobbying groups strongly oppose increased government involvement in health care, the resolve of many in the business community – especially among smaller firms – may be shifting.

“There is growing momentum among employers supporting single-payer,” said Dan Geiger, co-director from the Business Alliance for any Healthy California, that has sought to create business support for a universal health care program in California. About 300 mostly small employers have signed on.

“Businesses are actually angry about the system, and there's a large amount of frustration using its rising costs and dysfunction,” he explained.

Geiger acknowledged your time and effort still lacks support from the Fortune 500 company CEOs. He explained large companies are reluctant to get involved with this political debate and lots of don't want to lose the ability to attract workers with generous health benefits. “There is another lingering distrust of the government, plus they think they are able to offer coverage better than the federal government,” he said.

In addition, some in the business community are reluctant to sign up to Medicare for those with lots of details missing, such as how much it would increase taxes, said Ellen Kelsay, chief strategy officer for that National Business Group on Health, a leading business group focused on health advantages.

Chris Santos utilizes a forklift to move products around the warehouse at MCS Industries.(Photo by William Thomas Cain/CAIN IMAGES)

Democrats Propel the Debate

For decades, a government-run health plan was considered too radical a concept for serious consideration. But Medicare for those continues to be garnering more political support in recent months, especially following a progressive wave helped Democrats take control of the home this season. Several 2021 Democratic presidential candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, strongly back it.

The labor unions and consumer groups which have long endorsed a single-payer health system hope the embrace from it by employers such as Master marks another level for the movement.

Supporters of the concept say the health system overall would see savings from the coordinated effort to lower your prices and also the removal of many administrative costs or insurance company profits.

“It's crucial for our success to interact employers, particularly because our current product is hurting employers nearly as much as it's patients,” said Melinda St. Louis, campaign director of Medicare for those at Public Citizen, a consumer-rights group located in Washington.

Master, an old Washington lawyer, done Democratic Sen. George McGovern's presidential campaign before returning to Pennsylvania in 1973 to take over his father's company, which made rigid paper boxes. In 1980, he founded MCS, which pioneered the most popular front-loading picture frame and steamless fog-free mirrors for bathrooms. The organization is continuing to grow right into a $250 million corporation.

Master frequently travels to Washington and around the country to speak to business leaders as he seeks to construct political support for any single-payer health system.

In the past four years, he has produced several documentary videos on the topic. In 2021, he formed the company Initiative for Health Policy, a nonprofit number of business leaders, economists and health policy experts trying to explain the financial benefits of a single-payer system.

Dan Wolf, CEO of Cape Air, a Hyannis, Mass.-based regional airline that employs 800 people calls himself “a free market guy.” But also, he supports Medicare for those. He explained Master helps turn the political argument over single-payer into a practical one.

“It's about good business sense and about caring for his employees as well as their well-being,” he said, adding that employers should not be straddled using the cost and complexity of health care.

“It makes no more sense for an airline to understand health policy for the majority of its workers than for any adverse health facility to have to supply all of the air transportation for its employees,” he explained.

Employers are also an important voice in the debate because 156 million Americans get employer-paid healthcare, making it by far the single-largest form of coverage.

Master said his company has tried various methods to control costs with little success, including high deductibles, narrow networks of providers and wellness plans that emphasize preventive medicine.

Insurers who are designed to negotiate lower rates from hospitals and doctors failed, he added, and too many premium dollars visit covering administrative costs. Only with the us government set rates can the United States control costs of medication, hospitals along with other health services, he said.

“Insurance companies are not watching the shop and do not have incentives to carry down costs in the current system,” he explained.

Faith Wildrick is really a shipper at MCS Industries. She says that despite insurance her family struggles with health costs.(Photo by William Thomas Cain/CAIN IMAGES)

Glad In charge Is attempting To create a Difference

What's left of MCS in Pennsylvania is a spacious corporate business building housing administrative staff, designers along with a giant distribution center piled high with carton boxes from floor to ceiling.

MCS pays an average of $1,260 monthly for every employee's health care, up from $716 in '09, the company said. Recently, the organization has reduced out-of-pocket costs for employees by covering most of their deductibles.

Medicare for those would require several new taxes to boost money, but Master said such a plan would mean savings for his company and employees.

MCS employees largely support Master's make an effort to fix the system even if they aren't all aboard having a Medicare for those approach, based on interviews with several workers in Easton.

“I think it's a good idea,” said Faith Wildrick, a shipper at MCS who has helped the organization 26 years. “If another countries do it and it is working for them, why can't it work for us?”

Wildrick said that despite insurance her family struggles with health costs as her husband, Bill, a former MCS employee, handles liver disease and needs many tests and prescription medications. Their annual deductible has swung from $4,000 in the past to $500 this season as the company has worked to lower employees' out-of-pocket costs.

“I'm really glad someone is fighting for this and trying compare unique car features,” said Wildrick.

Jessica Ehrhardt, the human resources manager at MCS, said your time and effort to lessen employees' out-of-pocket health costs means the company be forced to pay higher health costs. That leads to less cash for salary increases along with other benefits, she added.

Asked about Medicare for those, Ehrhardt said, “It's a drastic solution, but something needs to happen.”

For too much time, Master said, the push for a single-payer health system continues to be about ideology.

“The movement has been about making health care an individual right and that we possess a right to universal health care,” he said. “What I'm saying is this is prudent for the economy and am trying to make the business and economic case.”