Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Good news

A friend was recently in the hospital with a blocked artery and had angioplasty. This is not as absurd as open heart surgery. The later, though effective and highly successful, has been described as "overhauling an engine while it's running". However, even short hospital stays are not cheap.

The thing is, he recently changed jobs. And as of a few years ago, employers have started delaying health insurance for a month or three while you start the new contract. This is pretty evil. Getting health insurance on your own is ridiculously expensive. And if there's any kind of employment gap, it's ridiculously expensive when you have essentially zero income. So when this has happened to me, i've skipped health insurance for a month here and there. I take no medications, and rarely have anything serious happen, so it seems like a good bet. I've been lucky so far. When my gall bladder exploded, i was covered. It would have been something like $6k.

Anyway, the good news is that my friend's new insurance did indeed take effect before his hospitalization.

We seriously need to decouple health insurance from employment in the USA. Employers have way too much power over employees. And, employers have been shown time and again to make use of their power in unethical ways. For example, i know people who were threatened with termination who, once terminated, must then leave the country. That's because these people were invited to work here on a work visa. It's a major hassle to sell everything you have and fly home.

The thing is, companies, especially large companies that run a cyclical business, like to hire people on "at-will" contracts so that they can dump them when business slows. In the old days, they paid these people a bonus. Not so much anymore. There are some good reasons to be a contractor. First, you have a spouse with insurance, and you go with contracts so you can opt out of it. Second, you want absurd breadth of industry experience. Third, as an "at-will" contractor, you have the option of quitting without notice or explanation when you discover that your new boss is an asshole. The sword cuts both ways. But when jobs are scarce, you tend to take what's available. And that's when it becomes clear that this whole system sucks. We need an affordable national health plan.

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