We must divorce health care from employment status

Career Opportunities podcast logoWe must divorce health care from employment status
By Douglas E. Welch



I hope everyone is paying close attention to the current health care debate, as it is probably one of the most important issues of your life and your career at this time. I am not an expert in health care policy. The benefits and drawbacks of each particular plan require deep study and thought. Regardless of what plan is chosen, though, for the good of us all, we must move toward divorcing ourselves from healthcare plans provided by our employers.

We need a health care system that covers the majority of people at costs that the average person can afford. Without it, we, as workers, find ourselves constrained, abused and even trapped in jobs that do us and the world little service, solely to maintain healthcare for ourselves and our families. Too often I hear stories of people working in dead end, low-paying and even abusive jobs because they have no choice. This is a poor way to run an economy, wasting people’s talent because we can’t decide on how to best keep them healthy.

Health care benefits made great sense in the days when workers could expect to hold the same job, or at least stay with the same company for 20-30 years. Cheap health care plans were an excellent fringe benefit, allowing employers to keep salaries lower in lieu of such benefits. You only have to look around you, though, to understand that the work world has undergone seismic changes since then. People now move regularly from job to job and company to company in an attempt to further their career. They might even start their own consultancies or businesses. Forcing workers to risk their own well-being, and that of their families, in order to better themselves and their working lives seems ridiculous and outdated.

As a freelancer today, people must pay a large percentage of their income towards health care, if they can find anyone to cover them at all. Insurance companies are so focused on the large potential earnings from corporate health care plans that they have abandoned any attempt to service small groups or individuals. In most cases, entrepreneurs must walk the healthcare tightrope and pray they don’t fall ill before their small startup becomes a success.

Lack of affordable health care is the single most damaging brake on economic expansion today. We have put a high value on innovation in our culture, and yet we put huge roadblocks in the path of innovation. How are we supposed to innovate when our basic career decisions must first hinge on our ability to find or maintain health care? People cannot change the world while their most basic survival needs are not met. Without our health, we cannot take the risks that need to be taken, we cannot make the changes that need to be made. We are mired in the status quo, which still leaves millions relying on emergency medical safety nets.

Regardless of what governmental health care plans are discussed or chosen, any plan that does not include easy and continuous access to health care to majority of American citizens, regardless of employment status, will be an abject failure and doom us to decades more of a 19th Century economy while trying to survive in the 21st Century.

If we hope to move this country, our economy and our individual businesses forward, we must divorce our access to health care from our employment status. All workers, from field hands, to office workers, to freelancers to entrepreneurs deserve access to health care as comprehensive and inexpensive as possible. It is their labor that drives our economy and access to health care is certainly one aspect of the “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” component of our Constitution, that is so important to our nation.

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1 Response to We must divorce health care from employment status

  1. Doug – great article, I really hope that people are paying attention….

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