July 4th is the right time for a Declaration of Independence from the employee benefits shackle.
The fact that most Americans have had to look to employers for access to insurance is not a law of nature, it’s an accident of history…
Prior to World War II, few Americans had health insurance, and most policies covered only hospital room, board, and ancillary services. During World War II, the number of persons with employment-based health insurance coverage started to increase for several reasons. When wages were frozen by the National War Labor Board and a shortage of workers occurred, employers sought ways to get around the wage controls in order to attract scarce workers, and offering health insurance was one option. Health insurance was an attractive means to recruit and retain workers during a labor shortage for two reasons: Unions supported employment-based health insurance, and workers’ health benefits were not subject to income tax or Social Security payroll taxes, as were cash wages.
Note that we all have paid all along for tax-free health insurance that is subject to the boss’s whims and only covers some.
God works in mysterious ways. This Hobby Lobby mess will be a blessing in disguise if it wakes up the public and our representatives in Congress to help President Obama keep his promise of a ‘robust public option’. It can be done most expeditiously by allowing a Medicare buy-in for people under age 65, the infrastructure is already there. It just needs courage.