The Failed Policy of Employer Driven Health Care

By Mark David Blum, Esq.

A federal appeals court boosted San Francisco's hopes Thursday of reviving its plan to extend health coverage to all uninsured residents and make employers share the cost.” Reconsidering a lower Court ruling that, “struck down a key funding provision of the health program, which would require medium and large companies to offer insurance to their workers or pay a fee to the city,” San Francisco City lawyers have appealed arguing that employers should provide health coverage for workers or pay a similar amount of money to the City to offset the cost of providing health care for the uninsured.

Employers and businesses have no place or role to play in the nation’s health care crisis. It is appalling that government has turned its attention to business owners and is helping itself to profits to offset what is arguably otherwise a government duty. Like police, fire, infrastructure, education, and courts, health care is not an employer driven need. Instead it is a social need shared by every single citizen. We do not require employers to provide for the costs of education or managing a fire district. It is just as insane to demand employers solve the nation’s health care issues.

It is time to correct a sixty year old bad habit that started as a fad and marketing trend and has since blossomed into what most folks consider a near constitutional right. I speak of the new age belief that an employer must provide health care benefits to its employees … or that employees have a right to insist, request, or even consider a health care plan as part of a compensation package.

Prior to the Second World War, there was no concept of an employer driven health care system. Because millions of healthy workers were in uniform, current demands of industry were high. Since the labor force controlled the market, employers began using Health Insurance as an added incentive to lure skilled workers to their industry. When the next generations came into the work force, they too wanted the same benefits as their forefathers and what we ended up with today is a benefit that is perceived as being on par with actual salary as the primary job consideration.

Now comes the new democratic controlled congress and suddenly there is talk about the nation about compelling employers to be the means of delivery of national health care.

Wherefrom comes to any government, the legal or constitutional authority to actually command a private employer to provide a specific benefit to its workforce. Doing so is unconscionable for two reasons.

Before I address them, I would first insist that mandatory health benefits are not the same legal animal as a minimum wage. Minimum wage is also a mandatory directive to private employers for the payment of benefits. Minimum wage laws send the profits directly into the hands of the consumer and the State via taxes. Also, these minimum wage laws apply to everyone across the board.

Aside from the libertarian and capitalist defenses of private rights to do business any way you want consistent with those who would buy your product, the two reasons government mandated health insurance through employers is repugnant are (1) only the insurance companies profit, and (2) it is an unreasonable burden on the entire market; both employer and employee.

America has to wake up to the con game called “health insurance”. There is absolutely no reason for a financial institution to involve itself in the relationship between doctor and client. Hospitals and medical providers deserve to be paid and yes their fees are extremely high.

Removing insurance from the equation will remove a very costly middle man; whose markup triples again threefold the cost of services rendered. Insurance companies fix the market prices. Insurance decides the services that cannot and those which must be rendered. Cutting out the middle man will force the market prices to adjust, alternatives to financing will be reached such as doctors and hospitals carrying the paper (like the rest of the world), and a more sane and rational balance will be found. Don’t ban insurance. Just stop seeing it as the ultimate solution to our nation’s health care crisis.

Similarly, our nation’s employers are not medical providers (unless that is their service). They sell widgets and the skills to build, install, and operate those widgets. The last thing our employers need is to involve themselves in the business of insurance; either in carrying it and billing for it, or in paying monstrous premiums to commercial carriers. It simply is not their business and frankly, employers lack any real skill at providing quality benefits for the prices charged.

With employees, the situation is no better. Mandatory insurance upon the employer gives the employer unbelievable access to the most private aspects of a person’s life. Employers will know your blood pressure, your drug preferences, and of your venereal diseases. You will have to share personal medical information just to get the job; not because it is a condition of employment but because it is necessary to assess your impact upon the employer’s risk pool.

The bottom line is that business needs to focus on widgets. WE, as a Nation need to find another solution to our nation’s health crisis. Absolutely and no matter what, “insurance” must be factored out of the equation.

I encourage too our nation’s unions to remove insurance as an element of their contract demands. Doing so would free up so much capital; salaries, benefits, AND research and development would be enhanced. Such a mass shift in the burden of solving the health care crisis from the employer back to all of us will pressure society to change the old ways and find new ones.

There are strong viable alternatives. One is a single government payor system with a parallel private system. Another is taxpayer and investment funded free access with medical providers being paid government employees.

It is not a pleasant thought but each of us must also take personal responsibility for our medical issues. We do not labor primarily for the Lexus and lakefront properties. We labor for food, shelter, and the basics of life. All the other goodies are perks. Each of us must start to accept at an early age that later in life, we will have medical issues and chances are that they will be expensive ones. Just as we prepare our young for college and home buying and retirement, we should prepare them to plan for the real eventuality of illness and injury.

The proof is in the pudding. Your premiums go up, your benefits go down, and your doctors get richer. Look back five years, ten years, even twenty five years. In which direction doth moveth the trend? Do you honestly expect this pattern to change?

‘Change’ comes from within.

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