Share the burden on health care

By From page A6 | November 20, 2012

Ace Hardware owner Jennifer Anderson’s plea to her employees to vote the Republican ticket recalls, to this historian’s mind, the days before introduction of the secret ballot, when employers or their agents kept an eye on their workers’ choices at the polls, retaining the acquiescent on their payroll but firing the rebellious.

Nowadays, Republican employers evidently feel entitled to threaten their workers with loss of benefits or even of their jobs if they disregard voting instructions from on high. What is then left of working people’s citizenly freedom?

In these last years of debate over national health insurance coverage (“Obamacare”), I have been baffled at Republican opposition to requiring the 40 million to 50 million uninsured Americans to obtain coverage — and to pay for it, insofar as they can do so (and many millions certainly can, as the rest of us do). Does this not validate Republican insistence on self-reliance and responsible contribution to public services?

Few Americans realize that our health insurance system is unusual among the industrial nations in tying coverage to employment, rather than providing it by law to all citizens, generally through a combination of public and private insurance options. Would not employers like Jennifer Anderson wish to be relieved of the burden they feel they bear in helping provide insurance to their workers by the introduction of affordable options mandated by law?

As for the weight on employers’ shoulders of their present responsibilities for workers’ insurance, and the degree to which these justify threatening workers with loss of employment, I think that no one can take Jennifer Anderson’s or other employers’ complaints seriously without knowing what sums of money from their businesses’ profit they reserve to themselves. Can we doubt that they, like other upper-middle-class Republicans, enjoy blue-chip health insurance?

Bill Hagen

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