Trapped in a Bad Job? The Health Care System Does That to Lots of Americans

Updated on February 15, 2017
Have you ever had a terrible boss? A terrible job? Have you been trapped because keeping the job is the only way to keep health insurance?
Have you ever had a terrible boss? A terrible job? Have you been trapped because keeping the job is the only way to keep health insurance? | Source

Ever Had a Terrible Boss?

If you’ve been in the work world for any length of time, you’ve come across that boss, a person eaten up with bitterness and anger, who flings it into every work relationship.

Mine came with my first job in Denver, a woman who had me desperate to get out of her clutches within 1 month. Early on, she gave me a tongue-lashing for putting my jacket on the wooden hanger that hung behind the door. She bit the head off our 14-year-old intern and scolded the 90-year-old volunteer when she didn’t like the way she put plastic covers on the books.

This boss went through 22 assistants in 21 years.

Have you ever stayed in a rotten job just for the health insurance benefits?

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A Way Out--Or Is It?

To save my sanity—and I mean that literally—I took the only other position I could finds--at a place that didn’t pay health insurance benefits.

It’s a dilemma that used to be common to American workers. I was desperate, and I jumped, even though I ended up with a 25% pay cut when I factored in the cost of health insurance on the individual market. I didn’t have a spouse or a family to support, or I could never have made the move.

We spend far more than other developed countries on health care. Yet, our outcomes aren't that great. (See chart below)
We spend far more than other developed countries on health care. Yet, our outcomes aren't that great. (See chart below) | Source
We are not doing well with the health of our populace compared to other countries.
We are not doing well with the health of our populace compared to other countries. | Source

The ACA Was a Start in Giving People Choices

With the Affordable Care Act, Americans were starting to make some headway on giving people more choice on what they wanted to do with their lives. And now Congress is debating taking the ACA away from at least 20 million Americans. They say they’ll replace it, but how?

I knew several people who started businesses before ACA. Every one of them had to have a spouse who worked a traditional job to carry health insurance for the family. Even the friend who was a talented civil engineer and now has an extremely successful business couldn’t have possibly paid for health insurance for her family for the first two years on her own. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the average annual premium for a family is $18,142. To all those people who dream of starting their own hair salon--or dog kennel—or construction business—you had better make sure that you can make an extra $20,000 per year on top of all your other living expenses.

The cost-increase curve was starting to bend down a little bit.
The cost-increase curve was starting to bend down a little bit. | Source

It's Not So Easy to Replace the ACA

My representative, Mike Coffman tweeted “Repealing & replacing Obamacare will lead to a patient-centered healthcare systems that is of higher quality and + affordable for Americans.” It is telling that he didn’t provide a link to any plan for a replacement.

Republicans’ previous proposals have called for tax credits and high deductible plans which look like they’ll cut prices a little. According to the New York Times, high deductible plans cut premiums by about $150 a month, which can seem like a drop in the bucket if you’re paying $1,500. Of course, they are “pay me now, get it back later” kinds of plans, tough for people who don’t have the cash up front.

And if they repeal now and replace later, the whole market is likely to collapse. Health insurance companies are not going to risk their money if there’s a chance they won’t get enough return.

Take a look at this chart. Only 19% of small business owners can get insurance on their own. The majority go uninsured or they depend on someone else in their family to carry it.
Take a look at this chart. Only 19% of small business owners can get insurance on their own. The majority go uninsured or they depend on someone else in their family to carry it. | Source

Why Don't We Make It Easier for People To Get a New Job or Start Their Own Business?

I’ve always wondered why a party that champions small business doesn’t do more to help people who want to start small businesses. We continually hear that they are the engines of job growth in the US, yet, we make it so very hard for people to strike out on their own.

People all over the US have been trapped in jobs they hate because they can’t take the chance on losing health insurance. Economists have a term for it: job-lock. Want a better boss? Want to start a business and become your own boss? It’s looking like it’s going to get harder.

Imagine the potential, not to mention the happiness, that could be unleashed if Americans were free to move to the kind of job they want. Unfortunately, the clock is turning back, and Congress doesn’t seem to have a good plan to keep us from being trapped in bad jobs.

What do you think we should do to help people switch jobs or start their own businesses?

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