I recently attended a two-day seminar on benefits, health care reform, and other changes in the law affecting employers and employees, many of which were enacted under the Affordable Care Act. This is a big deal for a sliver of people who live in the DC area and earn a living translating these legislative actions on behalf of the employer community.
Predicated on the spiraling costs of employee benefits, and in particular healthcare, these well-compensated employment lawyers assembled to advise conference participants on how to interpret the law and the guidance issued by Federal departments. Most importantly, however, these legal eagles specialize in helping corporations avoid the punitive fees and lawsuits one is exposed to by not following the instructions, poorly worded as they may sometimes be. There is an art to this.
Still, by the second day, I was convinced of the well intentions of the various civil actors (elected officials, government employees) to expand healthcare, presumably in line with the bounty our gross national output can provide.
However, noticeably absent from the discussion was the Patron Saint of Health: Popeye.
Popeye was fit, optimistic, a real go-getter. He also ate a lot of spinach. Coincidence?
I can’t recall Popeye taking a single sick day. No one was interested in his BMI. He certainly did not concern himself with healthcare exchanges and what impact legal changes in dependent care coverage would have on him, Olive Oyl, Swee’Pea or his tugboat business employees.
Nevertheless – and in spite of any personal health decisions and (lack of) health claims history – Popeye’s costs will continue to go up as coverage expands and our collective health deteriorates. His good decisions would be bundled with the potentially less good decisions of others, in order to balance out the risk of insuring a given population. And because of this he would have to charge his customers more, or pay his employees less. Or both.
Perhaps he would feel good about all these changes. Popeye never struck me as a particularly reflective guy, but with all that spinach, who am I to criticize?