Workers don’t keep jobs they don’t want just for health insurance
By Bill Mann
February 28, 2012
PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. — A major assault is underway by Republican candidates for the White House against President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which they persist in calling “Obamacare.” Contraception has become an unlikely issue in all this.
They didn’t, and they don’t. As a Montreal friend assured me the other day, “If you need help, you’ll get right in. For some other things, you may have to wait a bit.”
Canada spends far less per capita on health care (a bit more than half as much) than the U.S. The fact that socialist Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas, the father of Canadian national health care — not Wayne Gretzky — was voted The Greatest Canadian Ever by his countrymen in a Canadian Broadcast Corp. poll a while back should tell you something.
A few years back, when the President was trying to get his Affordable Care plan through Congress — single-payer was killed early on — I did a number of columns comparing the health-care systems of both countries, having actually lived in Canada and used both.
The comments I got were equally divided between Americans indignantly blasting or outright lying about the Canadian system, and Canadians defending it and thanking me for correcting distortions about their health-care system in the U.S media.
Canadian author Douglas Coupland, who’s generally given credit for popularizing the term “Generation-X” after his 1991 bestseller of the same name, talks about the U.S. system’s foolish wasting of talent and productivity in his first-rate, probing book comparing the two countries, “Souvenir of Canada 2,” published in 2004.
Coupland writes that whenever he met Americans his own age, the talk often turned to how they were going to pay their medical bills. The Vancouverite writes he couldn’t count the number of times younger Americans he met said they took a job they didn’t really want merely for the medical benefits. He calls this — accurately, I’d posit — “a waste of a young life.” He writes that when he mentioned that in Canada you simply go to the doctor for free, “I received glassy-eyed wonderment.”
How many people do you know — young people or otherwise — who are stuck in dead-end, unfulfilling jobs in the U.S. they hate simply because they feel they’re forced to — because they fear losing medical insurance? Probably quite a few.
I’ve been self-employed for 20 years, my wife even longer. When we tell people this, they inevitably say something like, “I’d leave my job tomorrow if I could get health insurance.”
“Pay for it yourself,” we usually say.
Isn’t it expensive, they ask? Yes, very expensive, we say. But it’s worth it.
One time, my HMO in the San Francisco area went bankrupt. I was in good health, but it took months for me to find a new health insurer — for a tidy $800 a month. Many Americans can’t afford to pay over $600 monthly for health insurance. Which is exactly my point here — they shouldn’t have to.
Thoughtful author Coupland, who’s lived in the U.S. and is also the son of a doctor, has a perspective on both countries that is unique, and he keeps coming back to the waste of talent, productivity and young lives in the U.S. job market because of the tyranny of non-government-run health insurance in the U.S.
Well, some would say, jobs aren’t supposed to be fun.
Maybe not, but do employers really want employees who are clinging to jobs because of health benefits? (Some do, but not all).
How much productivity is being lost because a company’s workers are, in effect wage slaves? (Especially in a recession).
So, the Affordable Care Act, which kicks in fully (finally) in 2014, may well help some young people get on with their lives and get jobs they actually like.
Plus, the Washington Post recently reported that in Massachusetts, which has a version of universal health care enacted when current Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was governor, so-called “Romneycare” is quite popular. Some 95 percent of the state’s residents are insured. A poll found that 62 percent approved of the law, and only 33 percent disapproved.
That’s gone largely unreported.
Makes you realize what Mitt Romney is running FROM.
Bill Mann is a MarketWatch columnist, based in Port Townsend, Wash.