Twenty years ago when they began their business, they decided that providing full health coverage to all their employees was going to be a priority. The state does not require that they provide coverage (not yet anyway), it was just a part of their business philosophy. They even included it in their corporate by-laws. If need be, they were willing to cut into their profit margin, and indeed they have made less money over the years than they would have otherwise. At the same time, however, they have remained true to themselves and have managed to secure a good and loyal work force along the way.
Paul told me of one particular employee that came to him requesting to be paid in cash what Paul was paying for his insurance premium. He was buying a house and needed the extra money. He would make his own arrangements for health coverage. Paul declined. A few weeks later, the employee was in an accident that required a hospital stay. The insurance picked up the majority of the tab, leaving the employee with a small co-pay. Paul chuckled a bit when he remembered that the employee never even said thank you.
What remains unclear is why exactly Paul is due thanks. Paul used a broker to find an affordable health plan and then deducted part of his employees' salary each month in order to pay for it. Thus highlighting the rather annoying habit liberals have of deciding what is best for everyone else, using someone else's money to pay for it and then patting themselves on the back.
There are approximately 9 million people in America that can afford health insurance but choose instead to remain uninsured. (9 million and 1 if you include Paul's ungrateful employee). The primary reason is that they are young and in good health and would rather spend their hard earned money on other things (like new homes) rather than on premiums for insurance they do not believe they need. It is, I am afraid, a rather conservative notion that free people should be able to spend their money in whatever way they see fit and suffer the consequences of those decisions.
In fairness to Paul, he is concerned - and justifiably so -- that many of his employees would not purchase their own insurance choosing instead to gamble that they won't get sick. While we have no way of knowing exactly how much this accident would have cost this employee, hospital stays are expensive. It is a safe bet that it would have been a wheel barrel full; it may have ended up costing him his new home. (Of course, if the employee failed to pay his mortgage the result would be the same so perhaps Paul should also begin holding back a portion of his employee's paycheck in order to pay his rent as well.)
Accidents or the onset of sudden illness can be catastrophic. Ideally, that is what insurance is for. One of the problems with our current healthcare system is that insurance has become the means of payment for any and all health concerns. The cost of my homeowner's insurance policy is high. How much more expensive would it be if in addition to covering me for fire and earthquakes it also paid the gardener for cutting my grass and maintaining the sprinkler system, the painter for removing the rust on the gate, and if it reimbursed me for replacing light bulbs?
One of the fixes for our health system being bandied about favors Paul's philosophy of mandating coverage for everyone, forcing others to foot the bill and then patting themselves on the back for a job well done.
A better way to begin to deliver higher quality health care and lower prices might be to increase consumer incentives by increasing the number and type of products available. We might also consider removing government restrictions that would allow consumers to purchase their own policies that are not connected to their jobs - policies that follow them wherever they go, policies that they could purchase from any insurer in any state. Nine million and one consumers with money to spend, shopping for bare bones policies tailored to their needs would no doubt be in a position to demand lower prices.
Joseph C. Phillips is the author of "He Talk Like A White Boy" available wherever books are sold.
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