As many of you know workers at General Motors have been on strike for two weeks. As many of you also know, one of the first moves from the management side in this strike was to cut the company’s payment for health insurance and put that back on the strikers. That cost will be picked up from the union’s strike fund thus depleting that fund rapidly.
By cutting off the health insurance payments management let the strikers know that the company owned their health. That is one way that companies have to control their workers. Once again, as many of you know, many workers are tethered to their jobs by health insurance. Businesses know that controlling a workers access to health care keeps employees from leaving.
It has long seemed a contradiction that companies in the US would not fight having the additional costs of health care premiums to add to products made in this country. But then, rather than attack that cost directly, companies have simply in many cases moved manufacturing offshore to countries where they do not incur health insurance costs.
For those companies in the US there has been a shifting of health care costs to the individual through higher co-pays and deductibles along with workers simply picking up more of the costs.
In the case of the GM strike, dropping health insurance premiums was a move to put striking workers in an untenable position rather quickly.
While this may have seemed a stroke of genius by forces of management, the messages that discontinuing health care premiums sent to the strikers and to the general public were twofold:
- When companies say their most important asset is their people they certainly do not mean it. Why would you take such an action to damage your most important asset.
- Leaving your personal access to health care in a 3rd party’s hands is a very bad set up. A much better system is to have access to health care held in common through a set up that includes all Americans and does not depend on employment status, age, gender, color, religion or any other variable.
Another side lesson from this is that our fractured health system is basically dysfunctional. In a country with the highest health care is available, we have pockets of ancient diseases trying to make a come back through populations that are unable to participate in our system. We leave our whole country at risk of some new, highly contagious diseases that may evolve by excluding portions of our population.
Along with that, our highly fractured system is far and away the most expensive on earth. We spend twice as much as any other country on earth and get about half the results. That surely doesn’t speak very highly of “good old American know how.”
Some reading this may have the visceral right wing reaction that if you don’t work, you don’t deserve the benefits o that workers get. They need to remember they are but one upper management decision from being without health care themselves. Look at the GM strikers. Even if your health care isn’t dropped it may become very expensive quickly – to the point where you must make a decision of whether or not you can afford it.
On Thursday, GM management reversed their decision to stop their health insurance premium payments for strikers. Someone must have figured out that the message they were sending to the public in general was much more damaging than the leverage they got over strikers by showing the strikers who owned them.
The message that GM sent to the public is pretty simple – do you want health care that is a right as a citizen, that you are in charge of, that is good everywhere in the country at little to no cost, that can’t be taken away by an employer or because of age or pre-existing conditions?
Republicans will claim that is what they will give you, but in reality if you vote for them, they will work hard to totally kill Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid.
All Democrats have vowed to work toward some for universal health care. This is what all Americans need. There should be no obstacles between you and your health care providers no matter who you are. Health care should be part of the benefits of being a citizen.
Are the cost too high? You and I already pay some $3T per year and for that we get millions who aren’t covered, no dental coverage, no hearing coverage, no vision coverage, no old age coverage, high co-pays, huge deductibles and many exceptions on coverage. I am betting if other countries can get all those coverages without co-pays or deductibles for much less than we pay, we can figure it out also. Given the chance, Americans are great problem solvers. We put men on the moon, didn’t we?