Sunday, October 13, 2013

Gesundheit!

According to the United States Government’s Small Business Administration website, one provision of the Affordable Care Act (so-called “Obamacare”) is that  
Beginning in 2015, employers with 50 or more full-time/full-time equivalent employees that do not offer affordable health insurance that provides minimum value to their full-time employees (and dependents) may be required to pay an assessment if at least one of their full-time employees is certified to receive a premium tax credit in an individual health insurance Marketplace. A full-time employee is one who is employed an average of at least 30 hours per week.
The chief honcho of one large pizza chain (name withheld so as not to give them any publicity) was so incensed by this requirement that he proposed cutting the hours of his employees to under 30 a week, so as not to have to comply with this provision of the law.

So consider: Here’s a guy who so much loves his pizza dough kneaders and pie slicers (people undoubtedly only making minimum--or near-minimum--wage and without personal health coverage), that he is willing (a) to make them poorer and (b) to ensure that in times of illness they are unlikely to benefit from medical care.
*
Among the placards the New York City Transit Authority has had on display in its subway cars for a while now is a public service ad (offered in both English and Spanish) telling the riders, “If you are unwell--stay home.” The aim of the ad is to prevent the spread of disease.

Only recently, however, the Florida state legislature rejected a proposal to require paid sick leave for employees.

I, therefore, would be leery about patronizing Florida food service establishments with minimum-wage employees—those who can’t afford to stay home when ill or to see a doctor. Imagine the gleeful germ ballets that must be endemic there.
***
The September 16, 1961 issue of the New Yorker featured a “Talk of the 
Town” piece by Donald Malcolm about a conversation with an imaginary 
“plump and solemn gentleman” who has decided to run for mayor of New 
York City. He has, he claims, a fool-proof plan to end the slum housing 
problem in the city. What he proposes is “a simple ordinance requiring 
every landlord to live in the meanest apartment in the nastiest building he 
owns.” The virtue of this ordinance is that it would ensure that each 
landlord would have to improve all his properties at the same time if he 
didn’t wish to have to continually uproot himself and move to a new 
“meanest” apartment.

Perhaps that plump gentleman’s proposal should be adapted to the healthcare issue in this country. What if there were a law mandating that every legislator could only have the healthcare coverage of the worst-insured member of his constituency?

***
UPDATE (Oct. 14, 2013):

A day after I posted this blog entry Salon.com published a story (brief excerpt below) that relates directly to some points I made in my essay:
One of the country’s largest and most profitable hospital chains has been defeated in its effort to take away its nurses’ sick days, according to the union that mounted nine strikes there over the past two years.
“The nurses would’ve come to work sick, and the patients’ health would’ve declined,” said California Nurses Association Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro. “Because the nurses would be exposing current patients to the past patients’ illnesses.” While nurses “take the risk of being around very sick people,” DeMoro told Salon, they “are not super-women.”
According to CNA, eliminating paid sick days was one of nearly two hundred concessions sought by California healthcare giant Sutter Health, in negotiations over union contracts covering three thousand nurses and hundreds of other employees at central California hospitals. Others included eliminating health coverage for nurses who work less than thirty hours a week, and reducing – to six hours – nurses’ minimum time off between shifts. The union says it defeated virtually all of the concessions in new contracts which were approved by members in votes which ended last week. CNA notes that Sutter financial statements show over $4 billion in profit since 2005.







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