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I Got Fired, & American Healthcare is Anti-Worker
On the bright side, I'll be writing more.
As the title says, I lost my job. That means I’m going to be writing a lot more frequently, aiming for 2x a week. One post will be for all subscribers, the other for paying subscribers. If you’ve been on the fence to become a paying subscriber, this would be a good time as there’s going to be a lot more premium content. - Joe
Welp. I got fired.
To make a long story short (and not violate the NDA), a new manager came in, and out I went. (Which was weird, because I had been previously told I was part of “a family.” Huh.)
I’ll spare you my gripes about my personal situation, but one issue I’m facing as a consequence of my termination is shared amongst American workers. As I’ve lost my employer-provided health insurance, I’ve found myself in healthcare purgatory. The American healthcare system is not a result of misplanning, but a purposeful gap configured to disempower workers to the benefit of employers.
Where Rubber Theory Meets Reality’s Road
According to free market theory, workers are free to sell their labor to whichever employer they choose. Alternatively, employers are free to hire whichever worker they choose, for whatever reason (barring factors like race, gender, and other protected traits established in the Civil Rights Act).
Where this theory fails to match reality is in taking in the worker’s entire financial situation. So while Free Marketeers will claim “if you don’t like your job, quit!” they seldom acknowledge the physical and psychological factors that keep a worker in place, even if there is a superior employment opportunity within reach.
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For example, approximately 58% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. As most people are paid every two weeks, that means a worker who quit their current job and took a week to be interviewed and hired (a near-impossible timeline) would have one week “in the red,” as the new job wouldn’t pay them for another two weeks. If the new job doesn’t pay new employees for a month, a practice that is quite common, that would mean the average worker would go three weeks without living expenses. Clearly, this is a massive departure from the free market theory.
The “Benefit” of Employer-Provided Health Insurance
In addition to inadequate pay, health insurance is another means of disempowering workers. Originally a means for employers to attract workers during the wage freezes of WWII, employer-provided health insurance has gone from a “perk” to the backbone of America’s healthcare system. In doing so, the United States has created a structure in which leaving your job or getting fired risks your ability to access necessary medicine.
While most developed nations have some form of guaranteed healthcare or insurance, the United States does not. Over half of Americans (54.4%) have employer-provided health insurance. About 35% are covered by government programs, such as Medicaid, Medicare, or TRICARE (retired military personnel). The rest are either uninsured or have independently purchased insurance through Healthcare.gov, the government-subsidized exchange set up through Obamacare.
This has created a situation in which, for the majority of the country, losing or leaving their job will result in either:
An inability to receive medical treatment or
Having to deplete what little savings they have.
The median savings for an American aged 35 - 44 is $4,710. As of 2021, the U.S. spent approximately $12,318 per person on healthcare — the highest healthcare cost per capita across OECD countries. That means the uninsured median American would spend their entire savings to receive a fraction of the “average” treatment. If they needed anything more than the “average” amount of healthcare, say, by getting into an accident, they would surely be indebted.
What about the “Safety Net”?
While there are meager protections for Americans not insured by an employer, they are burdensome and expensive. Upon my termination, I was offered COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act), which would keep me on the plan provided by my previous employer. The difference is that instead of a subsidized premium paid by both me and the employer, now I must cover the whopping cost of $563 a month.
My other option is to find a private plan on Obamacare’s Healthcare.gov. Earlier in life, I worked as a sales agent for a Medicare insurance company, so I am quite familiar with the government’s “solution” to overpriced healthcare. On multiple occasions, I helped elderly clients find the optimal Obamacare plan, only to have them break into tears when they saw what little coverage they got for unaffordable prices.
If you’re unfamiliar with the marketplace, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) established a marketplace for Americans to purchase lightly subsidized health plans, as if they were fucking Costco memberships.
The “gamification” of these plans is nothing but a pitiful attempt to make the inherent consequences of our healthcare system seem fun. “Bronze” is a cute way of saying you’re going to owe a lot of money if you break your leg. “Platinum” offers you the highest coverage (though you’ll still owe 10% of costly procedures) while charging you a sky-high premium.
As of 2020, the average cost of a marketplace plan was $456 for an individual and $1,152 for a family per month. Returning back to the fact the median American between 35 - 44 has only $4,710 saved, we can see how the healthcare system dooms Americans to despair.
For those who escape this death spiral by re-entering the workforce, they’ll have to wait a month before being covered by the new employer’s plan, meaning even a best-case scenario would forfeit a serious amount of their bank account. And they’re the lucky ones. For Americans who are unable to find a new job — which is becoming increasingly likely as the Fed aims to raise unemployment — tough shit. Enjoy your high premiums, low coverage, and the privilege of living in The Greatest Country in the World.*
(*Some exceptions may apply)
Please don’t take this to be a poor-Joe pity party. I’m fortunate to have enough saved to see me through this transition. On the bright side, as my job title is now “Disgruntled Former Employee,” I’m going to be writing a lot more. I’ve got exciting things lined up for premium subscribers, so I’d encourage you to become a paying subscriber.
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