November 9, 2004

Las Vegas Sun: Employers Should Pay for Employees' Healthcare

This Las Vegas Sun editorial demands that health care be paid for by employers, as if this would not have an absolutely devastating negative effect on worker's cash wages. It also abuses data:

To get a sense of just how poorly Wal-Mart treats its employees, it's illustrative to look at one of its discount-retail competitors, Costco. A story in Monday's New York Times noted that Wal-Mart asks employees to cover 33 percent of the costs for its health care plans. Add to that the low salaries that Wal-Mart pays, and it's not surprising that only 45 percent of its work force can afford the company's health insurance plan.
Unfortunately, there's no evidence that 55% cannot afford the health insurance plan. None at all. Zero. Nada. 45% of WM employees have the WM health care plan, 45% have some other plan, which presumably they CAN afford by working at WM. The editorial continues:
If businesses don't pay for their employees' health insurance, government-run hospitals that provide care for the indigent and for those without health insurance have to absorb the costs. Ultimately, taxpayers must pick up the tab, which means that we end up subsidizing the greed of Wal-Mart and other like-minded companies -- and they end up laughing all the way to the bank.
So let me get this straight. Emergecy doctors, whether they want to or not, must provide healthcare, regardless of ability to pay. Hence employers must pay for health insurance. How exactly does that follow? IT DOESN'T.

The editors imply that if employers don't pay for health insurance, a lot of people will not get it on their own, and they will all burden the system. WRONG!!!! True, some people will not get health insurance, but not all of them need or want it. Assume that all uninsured are a cost on the system. This is an argument that people be required to purchase some form of health insurance for themselves, not that their employers pay for it.

I don't see how it's WM's fault for doing nothing other than--completely legally--taking advantage of current government schemes? In fact, WM exposes a critical flaw in the current method. Doctors and governments should realize that if they provide incentives for employees to not pool healthcare costs,, some will take them up on the offer. The vast majority of these will be poor people.

You might want the poor to receive advanced medical treatment. But if you do, then you must recognize that most will either refuse to pay or cannot pay for it. One cannot hide these costs under the umbrella of "insurance" paid for by employers; whether "insured" or not, other people pay for their care in higher premia or higher prices elsewhere. (One can make the argument that a shift towards preventative care will save money and ease the ER crunch, but I'm not yet convinced it will save money).

Also, the editorial does not state why employers should not be required to pay for the food, housing, clothing, transportation, entertainment, or education of their employees. Aren't those just as

Posted by Kevin on November, 9 2004 at 11:00 AM