Healthcare, Obamacare, Controversycare...
Have you ever posted an answer to a question for an online college class that stirred up so much buzz that even your professor weighed in?
That's what happened to me last week in my Business 250 class.
The assignment was to post my answer to the following question:
What ethical responsibilities does a company have to provide benefits to its employees? OR does it have an ethical responsibility?
My post in the discussion section:
I am about to give the other side of a very controversial topic. No, I do not think it should be forced on the business owner or deemed unethical if a company does not provide health insurance to its employees.
It is like saying we should obligate our employers to provide car insurance for their employees, too! When did this fall on the shoulders of the business owner?
Think about it, if you were a start-up would you want to have to worry about health insurance along with all the other overhead costs to begin a business?
I think it is ridiculous to expect, demand, or require businesses to have to pay insurance. If some businesses choose to provide it then that will benefit them by people wanting those jobs.
If it is an incentive for getting better employees then, fine. But to require it, in my opinion, is unfair. Or to say it is unethical, is downright judgmental.
People and businesses judge each other. Like, "My kids get new clothes and shoes every year before school starts, so should yours, if yours don't then you're a bad parent."
If you want your kids to have new this or that then do it and quit judging your neighbor. In the same way, business owners quit judging other companies because they aren't doing things the way you think it should be done.
If the responsibility is taken off the business owner then medical insurance companies, just like car insurance, will be forced to lower rates to compete.
Small insurance companies that provide individual and family plans would crop up and each and every family would be responsible for their own plans. Even the feds should be required to kick in.
Some employees are obese, some smoke, and some don't exercise. These people suck the life out of employee insurance money. If these people had to pay for their own plans and their own costs maybe they would think twice about puffing, moving, and grazing. Diabetes, arthritis, and several other issues are due to obesity, smoking, and lack of exercise.
It is not fair to the employees who are healthy and responsible to have to have their plans bumped up. It would be like asking others to have to suffer for bad drivers when they are a good driver.
Or, there could be a higher cost to intentionally unhealthy people because I believe sometimes healthy people get cancer or other illnesses.
The question should be, why should employers be required to provide health insurance?
Professor Claudia Minton's post:
Thanks for a quality discussion all...with the new health reform law, small businesses are helped by the government; not all businesses are treated in the same way.
If you are small enough, I don't believe you have to cover employees...12 employees or fewer...I can't remember the specifics. Plus, if the law does go into effect, if there are problems, adjustments will be made.
I don't think the intention is to penalize business but to cover everyone; we all must have skin in the game; just as Stephanie mentioned we all must have car insurance although we know that some people are not covered and then our insurance has to pick up all the cost.
We all do pay our own car insurance costs at $2000 a year or less for most but health care costs for families average $12000 a year. I'm not sure how many could afford this price out-of-pocket.
I thought one of the key points that Alex mentioned was that Weigans(?) asks their employees to be more health conscious. Safeway does the same. They offer health insurance but if you smoke or are overweight you pay more.
If you are willing to attend and work at reaching a healthy weight class and quit smoking you earn health insurance rebates at the end of the year. I saw the CEO of Safeway talking about their program and it has been very successful. Their insurance costs have actually gone down because the company and employees are all making an effort to hold costs down.
By the same token, they use a hair analysis test as a prescreening tool to determine if people have smoked or used drugs within the last two months. Who knew you could tell this from hair analysis?
Several countries around the world have universal health care with better outcomes and lowers costs than the US and not all of them have a tie to business, but there are some parameters placed on coverage to limit waste and to limit excessive income.
For example, in the US cardiologists make much, much more than pediatricians because people over 65 use five times as much health care as children under 18. So med students go into cardiology where they can earn 500,000 or more while pediatricians are in the $200,000 or less range.
This income disparity is another reason we do not have enough primary care health practitioners. Hopefully as people become more informed we can make educated decisions about what type of safety net we want and how we want to pay for it. Thanks again for an engaging discussion.
Another student's response:
I worry that our country will be the model that other countries follow instead of vice-versa. Other countries will see how much the American moguls are making and start thinking American rather than "Ethican," (one who has Ethics; Yes, I made that up).
I believe we share a burden, but I also believe our Government should share the burden. Healthcare costs are out of control and the only one to get it into control is our Government. Until the Government steps in, we will be forced into high costs for insurance and doctor visits.
Professor Claudia Minton's second post:
Unfortunately many people don't understand some of what the government does now. When Medicare patients don't understand that their health care is coming from the government and when regular society doesn't understand that many people on the Medicaid rolls are widows over 65 and people in nursing homes who can't afford their care, it is a real uphill battle to help citizens look at the entire package.
My son is an ICU nurse and he has commented that 75% of the patients in the ICU are on welfare; many are lifelong smokers or drug users, and most are overweight and out of shape. It's a serious problem.
I do think there are answers that are fair but the ones we adopt will require an open perspective and a willingness to look at realities and take more individual responsibility. We'll see what happens. It seems like many more people are at least discussing and writing about the issue.
Professor Claudia Minton's Comment in the grading area of the site:
Finally, do you know how much the school district pays monthly for your health insurance?
Mine is $850 and that is for just my husband and me. I have a friend who is self-employed and as healthy as anyone could possibly be. No smoking, no extra weight and very toned. The cheapest insurance she could afford was $300/mo and she had a $7500 deductible so until she spent that much, she got no coverage.
Healthcare is a very serious social issue and everyone needs to be as informed as possible so we can develop comprehensive and sensible programs. I think we should be taxed on our health benefits. I think most people have no idea what their companies pay on a monthly or yearly basis to offer them healthcare coverage.
If average programs cost $12000 a year, I wonder how many families could afford $1000 a month? It is a healthy expense for companies and they deduct the costs from their gross income. I don't know of a fair way to pay for healthcare costs; it is terrific burden for business, government and individuals.
Please note: I am not very educated on health insurance and as a college student, when I am given an assignment, I do the best I can to complete it with what I know. I read a few sites and opinions about health care and formed my own opinion on the fly. Please do not take what I wrote as a fully studied expert. I was simply completing an assignment. (I could lose a few pounds myself!)
How would you answer those questions?
Here's what another writer wrote in the comments, I appreciate his maturity and passion! Thanks John!!!
It took the United States generations to evolve into a system where workers have gained certain "inalienable" rights and legislation written and passed that certain companies that are large enough are required to follow rules and regulations with regard to equal opportunity and pay. According to this view, benefits have naturally become incorporated if not ethically, legally. Based on these viewpoints, we were able to build a great, strong nation. The people of the emerging economies which governments have no such laws or views and allow their companies to decide the fate of its employees, dream of evolving into something similar.
"It is like saying we should obligate our employers to provide car insurance for their employees, too! When did this fall on the shoulders of the business owner?"
If this is the case, why even reimburse mileage or provide Workers' Compensation, Disability or Unemployment? Why not leave an employee to their own fate on all counts, only with the salary that they barely enjoy with today's economy and allow the employer to decide whether or not they even reimburse? Frankly, in my humble opinion, employers have a duty to their employees and a financial interest in their well-being, as producers of the enterprise. If employees aren't provided for through salary, and benefits (which are forever being reduced only to line the corporate bank accounts), chances are, they won't be able to perform and productivity falls.
Through the statement I quote that you made, are you saying that if you drive while you are on the job that you pay for your own car insurance, gas, mileage, suffer the wear and tear, and not be reimbursed not even a dollar - meanwhile, the company you work for enriches itself based on all of your own personal expenditures?
As it is today, we are returning to a two-class society of kings and peasants. I doubt that is what you wish for - and that is precisely why we need to have employers that are large enough to do so, provide benefits to their employees - to help keep the dying middle class alive. It's their ethical, moral, and in some instances and thankfully so, legal responsibility - and that is why employers should be required to provide health insurance, among other benefits American employees have fought long and hard for.
When advocating on behalf of certain issues, I think it extremely important to understand the effects and consequences from an overall perspective, but respect your arguments and enjoyed this topic. In your favor, however, your argument does allow business a more competitive edge on the world stage.
BTW, I know I wrote almost an entire article in my comment it's just that while I worked at the Department of Justice I was elected to SEIU Local 1000's General Council and volunteered as an appointed job steward, fighting for benefits and the rights of my fellow employees and so I feel very strongly on the subject. Perhaps I am just "jaded" from giving my heart and soul to the cause - which is why when it comes to things like benefits and employee rights I always get on the "soap box." My apologies! Again, I totally respect your view and rated your report up!