Health Care and Fringe Benefits

Well, here I sit early Monday a.m. in the midst of the winter of my discontent — from the standpoint of running and other matters. The temps managed to climb above freezing over the weekend in NE Ohio, and I should have been able to get outside to run for the first time in months. But nah. I managed to injure a calf muscle while chasing the treadmill belt last week.

So while limping around the house and brooding over this latest admittedly minor setback my thoughts turned to health care — and what medical benefits and affordable coverage really mean to me and certainly to millions of others.

If you are fortunate enough to have medical benefits and coverage — do you really know what it costs you and your employer?

I remember when I used to consider employer-paid medical coverage — and employer costs for pensions, vacations, disability protection, paid sick leave and so on — to be fringe benefits. You kinda took them for granted, without really recognizing the value. And I’ve been fortunate — much more so than most people — to have been in that position throughout my working lifetime.

That’s why I believe the current health care reform debate (debacle?) will turn on the issue of cost. How much will it cost to provide some level of coverage to those who are uninsured? And how do we control the health care costs that really are a burden to government at all levels, employers and individuals?

For instance, I live in a small community, Copley, Ohio. I read an article in the Akron Beacon Journal this morning saying that Anthem Blue Cross of Ohio is planning to hike premiums by 39.1 percent for township employees. Some of that cost most likely will be passed along to employees. The rest will be subsidized by taxpayers.

The point: these really aren’t costs and benefits the are on the fringe for employers and employees — and they aren’t sustainable under present conditions.

So this should be an interesting week as the Obama administration unveils its proposal for health care reform — and our elected officials and others come together Thursday to sort out this mess under the watchful eye of TV cameras and the American public.

And that should provide another fringe benefit: a look at government in action.

Or not.


2 responses to “Health Care and Fringe Benefits

  1. Yes, it will be both interesting and revealing to see how the two-party system manages this crucial moment. As you accurately point out, cost is center stage: how do we pay to protect the millions currently uninsured? To me, there really is only one answer: are Americans prepared to consume less so that all citizens are covered? Actually, “consumption” won’t be reduced, just shifted to health care. Somehow, this question needs to be posed and answered by the electorate–no politician of either party will ever touch it. I wish we could hold a national plebiscite on the issue: is the welfare of all Americans important enough to you to make personal sacrifices? If you think it is, how should the money be collected and managed, and by whom/what?

  2. The hard part is that nobody really wants to give up anything in terms of access, consumption or higher taxes. This is a complex issue and tough problem to resolve — and how this all plays out may very well be a preview of coming debates on other matters such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and so on.

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