Monday, October 15, 2007
We Insure, So You Don't Have To!
Completely separate point: I'm eternally grateful for my state health benefits. See, my partner was dumped from her full-time job probably because of her health status (suspicion reinforced by her oncologist). As a cancer survivor with multiple surgeries, no private provider will cover her. So, thanks to NJ's CU law and state partner benefits, she's covered, with better health benefits than what were provided at "corrupt, ethically-impaired corporation." For my employer (and the state of NJ), it binds me closer at a time when the school needs my level and type of experience (on-going national shortage). I was invited to apply for a job in Utah--not exactly a queer-friendly state, so, forgetaboutit. And, finally, I even have greater "warm fuzzies" towards my school and NJ. If my school and state are helping me take care of my family, I'm far less likely to move (me and my spouse) to another locale.
A few extra grand per year in health benefits is cheaper than 5 years worth of staff shortages and failed faculty searches. It's actually a win-win for the school and the state.
Do you offer payouts to people who choose not to get married and thus burden the system?
My father took a 20K/year pay cut (at least) in the early 90s to take a job that offered health coverage for my mother (a stay-at-home wife, the kids were gone at that point). She had pre-existing conditions so no insurance company would touch her. (they had no problem giving Dad coverage since he was relatively young and healthy as a horse) The part that I love for the irony? Since that time, Dad has had MORE health issues than Mother. So that company would have gotten nailed anyway.
It makes no sense to me -- we're a two-person family, just like a couple, but I'm forced to pay a premium for kids that I don't actually have.
Don't get me wrong, I am more than grateful to have an insurance plan at all, having been without (and at other times on Medicaid) before.
But still...universal health care...we can dream, can't we?
For instance, the first TT job LDH took offered me (the spouse) no subsidy on the premium. The expectation was that I would find a job and get my own health insurance. Putting aside the issue of why we should or should not force both spouses to work full time all the time, I couldn't find a job in this particular town. At least not one that used my (very practical) masters degree. So, I took a job as a secretary at a bank - for the health insurance.
My friends are at that age where the jobs that fit their lives and skills (mostly retail) don't provide health insurance at all, or do so under the stupidest conditions possible (work there for a year at full time, when you can't be considered "full time," no matter what your hours are, for a year before that, and oh, by the way, you have to maintain these hours and not be transferred between stores or take a different position within the company).
Since we're still in school/just got out of school/trying to get back into school, it's an absolute crap shoot, and none of us can afford COBRA stuff anyway. So one of them is doing the 'registered domestic partnership' thing with her boyfriend, so she can be insured through his company... and my boyfriend and I are considering doing the same thing so he can be insured through mine. It's absolutely infuriating.
I'm definitely one of the ones who's stuck in a shitty job because of the health insurance (and, okay, the money) ... if I had breathing room on that front, I'd be much better off. And yes, I'm also dodging tests and treatment because a) I don't want it to get back to my employers, and b) I don't want to be denied coverage when I have to go somewhere else.
I can't imagine any scenario in which it's more advantageous over even a relatively short timespan to have a bunch of sick, stifled, unhappy people stuck working for you than it is to have healthy, happy, productive people doing the same things.
If I liked this place, I'd be awesome. I've done the same work at places where I've fit better and not felt screwed all the time, and gotten a bloody lot of compliments and done some fairly impressive things. Getting into the office here feels rather like being concussed; it's all I can do to pretend to do my job, let alone do anything really useful. How is a system that makes it harder for me to leave in anyone's best interests?
However, if it is, then a cafeteria style plan makes the most sense. Two assistant professors could be hired at total compensation x. Each could choose which insurance plans, which benefits and for how many dependents. Each additional choices costs more money.
This way, a professor who is single and a professor who is married and has 10 kids receive the same total compensation.
2) I got married so my husband could get on my insurance. We are happy (7+ years now!) but still. It just strikes me as the most absurd horrible thing.
That said, you do seem to be ignoring the elephant in the living room...your college chooses to cover spouses and children at no additional charge. If you provided insurance for only the employee, and charged the actual cost for any dependents, you wouldn't have this problem. If you're unable to get quality employees without offering those benefits, then they're part of the cost of retention, and you might as well suggest the government pay everyone $5000/year so you don't have to.
I think the larger question is why we as a nation, do we put up with this crap? DD is taking an economic approach, which is fine. I just want to ask point blank--why is that one of the wealthiest nations in the world systematically ensures that only certain people get adequate access to health care? Why does it have to be an economic argument? Our current system is horrendous and only makes sense for HMOs and PPOs...not for the people who seek health care or the people who provide it.
1. Just keep in mind that the system we have, especially the fact that health insurance is tied to employment, is NOT a "free market" outcome. That linkage came about during World War II when wage and price controls made it impossible to attract new workers with higher wages, so firms began to offer health insurance instead, then the federal government decided to treat non-wage compensation as non-taxable, distorting the incentives even more. It's highly unlikely that a free market health care system would look anything like what we have - whether it would be better or worse is another question. There have been numerous free market reforms proposed that would also attempt to end the employment-health insurance link.
2. NO health care system can promise that everyone will have equal access to all the care they want or need. Just look at the story on CNN today about British citizens using "DIY dentistry" because the NHS can't find enough dentists to serve them. Or the story earlier this month about Canadian hospitals sending pregnant women south of the border because they didn't have enough beds or the right equipment.
Health care is a scarce good and must be "rationed" in some form. If you do it by the market, wealth will matter and some will get better care than others (but all might get better care than today - it's possible anyway). If you do it through government, those who have access to power will be favored, as will those willing to wait in line, as will those with wealth who can procure the services outside the public system. In any case, not everyone will get everything they want and the wastes associated with government provision might well be larger than the costs of doing it via the market.
My point is simply that calling for "health insurance as a right" is not the same thing as ensuring that everyone gets the care they want/need, nor that the system wouldn't have inequities of its own. Intentions are not the same as results.
To put it another way, we shouldn't compare ourselves to Britain or Canada -- we should compare ourselves to Britain or Canada if their systems as currently constituted had 2-3 times as large a budget as they currently do.
Kimmit has it right for budgets, something I wish our reporters would mention every time our right-wing government talks about the benefits of privatizing health care. When we spent closer to what the US spends, no one worried about wait times.
Dean Dad, what about single people? They are costing you the same as those who have spouses but opt out of the health plan. Do they get savings too?
Argh, my husband's employer (I'm an adjunct, no coverage for me!) offers either "single employee" or "family plan" at 4-6 times the cost. So the two of us are a "family plan." Despite being, you know, two of us. The guy two offices down with a wife and 4 and a half kids pays the same we do.
(On the one hand, I don't want to penalize people for having children, but 4-6 times as much? Seriously?)
Odds are that their think tank has a corporate plan, and that they have never applied for individual health insurance coverage with its exclusions and possible genetic and other tests as a precondition for approval of the policy.