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Luskin: Health Care for Grads

06/21/12 5:55PM By Deborah Luskin
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(Host) Novelist, essayist and educator Deborah Lee Luskin thinks it’s right that we provide health care for our poor, disabled and aged populations. She’d just like to see the benefits extended to everyone – including the wage earners who pay taxes.

(Luskin) Two of my children have recently graduated from college, and they have both found terrific jobs in their fields. Of course I’m proud of my kids, and delighted they’ve found work they’ve trained for and love. They’re both taking firm, first steps towards building professional careers.

Lucky as they are to find such jobs, neither of their positions includes benefits – no paid holidays, no retirement plans, and no health insurance. But, thanks to the national health care bill, my kids are still covered by our family health plan.

My kids are reasonably healthy. Nevertheless, since graduating both have needed urgent medical care. One cut her finger while slicing bread, and the other had a semi-detached retina – the sorts of things that can happen to anyone, any time, and are potential catastrophes for someone with a job but no insurance.

The bills for my kids’ medical care were way beyond what they could afford with their starter-salaries. Had they not had insurance, they would have had to make grim choices: lose a fingertip, lose sight in one eye, or incur significant medical debt.

Expanding health insurance coverage to age twenty-six is a good first step toward a national health policy that will allow all workers to – well – work! After all, “income earner” is another term for “tax payer.” When people work, tax revenue increases.

As our national policy now stands, income earners pay for health insurance for those who don’t work, those who can’t work, and those who have retired from work. A national policy could extend this coverage to people who do work, even if health insurance is not offered through their jobs.

In fact, divorcing health insurance from employment would be good for the workforce and the economy. Under our current system, too many workers stay at jobs for the benefits that come with corporate employment. This scenario can foster suspicion and discontent, where workers are more concerned with keeping their jobs than in workplace excellence – or even getting the job done. It threatens productivity and kills innovation. This system also discourages workers from joining small businesses, stifles entrepreneurs from starting new ones, and hinders non-profits from expanding services because small enterprises like these can’t afford to provide health benefits. Divorcing health insurance from employment would allow workers to change jobs and seek innovative work, in turn stimulating a vibrant, productive, economy.

Extending family health insurance coverage to age 26 is a great first step toward expanding health insurance for everyone. But this provision only serves those of us who already have insurance. What about those who don’t?

I’d like to see health insurance coverage separated from employment, so that everyone could find meaningful work, earn a living wage, and pay taxes, providing healthcare for all.
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