The Argument Against Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance

PowerPoint slide that reads “Medicare for All” in black on a red background.

While you may love your health insurance today, next year you may be tragically disappointed with what your employer offers.

During her senior year of high school, my daughter was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor (Hypothalamic Hamartoma) that caused debilitating seizures. At the time, I was employed as a teacher in the Clark County School District — the 5th largest school district in the nation — and we were blessed with outstanding medical insurance. Since her brain tumor was very rare, only a few of the facilities in the world were qualified to treat it. In 2007, Teacher’s Health Trust negotiated with Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix to arrange for my daughter’s surgery. Although the amazing team at Barrow’s was unable to remove her tumor due to its precarious location, they were able to disconnect some of it from her hypothalamus. My daughter’s seizures ended, and she went on to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and co-host a radio show. In 2014, her seizures returned. Sadly, the quality of care with Teachers Health Trust had dramatically declined. Although my daughter was then covered by Medicare, since she was under age 26, Teachers Health Trust was her primary insurance. This time they fought payment every step of the way, and despite relentless advocating on my part, they only paid for one night in the hospital and refused to cover any of her actual surgical expenses.

So… while you may love the insurance you have today, what they offer you during the next negotiation cycle may be sorely disappointing.

Ultimately, no one can really evaluate the quality of their health insurance until something catastrophic happens, unless of course their insurance is already painfully disappointing for even the smallest medical issues due to high premiums, high deductibles and co-pays, and limited access to doctors and facilities.

The debate between supporters of “Medicare for All” and “Medicare for those who want it” has received much attention recently from the Culinary Union in Las Vegas. Surely, the Culinary Union has negotiated hard to achieve excellent medical insurance for their union members. But realistically, as soon as a public option is offered, labor unions and big businesses will drop all involvement in employee health care. With “Medicare for All” in place, union negotiators will be freed to work toward improving other critical benefits such as child or elder care, paid leave, and improved wages. Even those people who love their existing insurance cannot depend on it remaining excellent. Contracts are renegotiated annually. It is a constant fight between workers and management that needs to end. Ultimately, no worker can ever be secure with the quality of their employer-sponsored health insurance.

What about the uninsured and under-insured?

Not every employer offers health insurance, and some of the health policies offered to workers are sub-par. Roughly, 8.5% of Americans — or 27.5 million people — are currently uninsured, and it is a very scary place to be. During my younger years, as a single parent, I was one of those people. I suffered at home with a kidney infection that should have placed me in the hospital. But without insurance, I was sent home with a three-month prescription for antibiotics. Minor illnesses went untreated. Before the days of Obamacare, my other daughter did the responsible thing by opting in to her employer’s health care program. A severe asthma attack sent her to the ER via an ambulance. Her insurance — through Macy’s — refused payment because asthma was a pre-existing condition. Although I helped her negotiate her medical bills, it took her years to finally pay them off. No American should ever be in this situation. It is unconscionable in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world.

Job lock is another major consideration in the health care debate. The fear of being uninsured or under-insured traps many Americans in jobs they do not love. This is not the same world it was 50 years ago when many Americans stayed with the same employer for the duration of their career. In today’s world, individuals change jobs and even careers multiple times in their lives. In 21st century America, many people work numerous part-time jobs that offer no medical insurance in the “gig economy” that has evolved. As automation eliminates even more jobs in the coming years, less and less people will even qualify for employer-sponsored health care. Americans need the freedom to explore new career options without fear of losing medical coverage for themselves and their families, and “Medicare for All” is the only realistic solution.

As a nation, the time has come for a single-payer healthcare system — Medicare for All. If socialized medicine can be successful in Europe and in Canada, it can be realized in the United States as well. Opponents argue that the quality of medical care in the United States will suffer if we dismantle our existing system, citing that we have the best medical care in the world. I would agree that we do — but only for the wealthy. All Americans deserve high-quality health care, the wealthy will still find their way to the best care. The rest of us deserve a chance for a life freed from ruinous medical debt or the fear of having a family member forgo necessary medical treatment because it is unaffordable due to the lack of insurance or poor-quality insurance.

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