James Gammon, aka “That guy that’s in all that stuff.”
The relentlessly rising cost of health insurance is prompting some small Massachusetts companies to drop coverage for their workers and encourage them to sign up for state-subsidized care instead, a trend that, some analysts say, could eventually weigh heavily on the state’s already-stressed budget.
Since April 1, the date many insurance contracts are renewed for small businesses, the owners of about 90 small companies terminated their insurance plans with Braintree-based broker Jeff Rich and indicated in a follow-up survey that they were relying on publicly-funded insurance for their employees.
In Sandwich, business consultant Bill Fields said he has been hired by small businesses to enroll about 400 workers in state-subsidized care since April, because the company owners said they could no longer afford to provide coverage. Fields said that is by far the largest number he has handled in such a short time.
And the solution? Tightly restricting provider networks — which often means you don’t get to go the best hospitals when you need to. Wheee!
But I’m guessing (just call it a hunch) that the insurance companies will report record profits, anyway.
They’re “only” spending $119 a day! Good thing they have the New York Times to stick up for them (and hint what a bad idea it would be to raise their taxes).
It astounds me that so many of the people who are still employed, or somehow have enough money not to worry, are so downright oblivious to just how bad it is for everyone else:
Those opposed to another extension say the country simply can’t afford it. And some assert, as did Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, the GOP gubernatorial candidate, that the benefits encourage people to stay at home instead of looking for work.
Public-policy professor Carl Van Horn, Zukin’s coauthor, disagrees.
“In a strong labor market, when unemployment is low, having an unemployment benefit does contribute slightly to the unemployment rate,” said Van Horn, who directs the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers.
But that’s absolutely not the case in this prolonged recession, he said, with nearly one in 10 workers out of a job and many more underemployed or discouraged.
Ward, who has been her family’s main breadwinner for the last 14 years, said she had been looking hard for work. She estimates that she and her husband have just a few hundred dollars left in savings, barely enough to squeeze out August’s mortgage payment.
If Congress had renewed the extensions before they expired in May, she’d be eligible for at least six more weeks, and perhaps up to 26 more, depending on how the legislation was crafted.
“It’s almost like the victims in Haiti and in New Orleans: They are forgotten,” he said. “For those people who are long-term unemployed, I think they think the nation doesn’t care any more.”
Meanwhile, getting by means being grateful that other parents in the Caln Little League donated used equipment so her children could play. It means relying on a neighbor’s generosity to repair the alternator in their car. “It would have cost us several hundred dollars if we took it to a mechanic,” Ward said.
It has meant food stamps, and milk and cheese through a federal program for mothers with young children. (Her youngest is 2.) When they visit her parents in Chinatown, they come home with a bag of food. And she’s been lucky enough to land an $11-an-hour part-time stimulus-funded job in her field.
“But that will end in a few weeks,” Ward said. Still, everything helps.
For the long-term unemployed, prospects are bleak, according to the Heldrich study, titled “No End in Sight: The Agony of Prolonged Unemployment.”
Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 people who were out of work in August, and then caught up with most of them again in March. Just one in five had found any job. For every hundred who had been laid off, only 13 landed full-time work.
“Even for those people, it’s a disaster,” Zukin said. “They took jobs they didn’t want to take, and they took them with salary and benefit cuts.”
More than half took a pay cut, with 7 percent of the group willing to work for less than half of what they previously earned.
Most of the long-term unemployed in the study tapped savings or, like Ward and her husband, went without health insurance. Many used food stamps. More than half borrowed from family or friends. One in four missed a mortgage or rent payment, and 6 percent declared personal bankruptcy. Many experienced depression, lack of sleep, strain in family relations, anger, depression, and helplessness.
Sue Kaiden, a professional career counselor and longtime volunteer with Joseph’s People, a support group for the unemployed, worries about their job prospects.
“Employers are saying, ‘We don’t want to hire you because you’ve been out of work so long,’ ” she said.
Her comments were buttressed by Peter Gioacchini, a senior director of talent acquisition at Cigna Corp., who said his company always looked for the best talent – and often those people are employed, not unemployed.
This is rather rich. It wasn’t so long ago, that liberals were being called “f—— retards” by Rahm Emanuel for refusing to get behind the president’s compromises on health care. When they finally did, they were chastised for insufficient enthusiasm for a bill that they were instructed to hold their noses and support. Ditto financial regulation, which, in many respects, is a gift to Wall Street, not Main Street. And environmentalists, labor, and feminists have all received not merely nothing, but genuinely regressive rulings by the administration and told to take it and like it. That’s when it can be bothered to notice that they exist at all. Dana Goldstein’s story on the administration’s gratuitous slap at feminists Friday is just one of an ongoing series.
To be fair, this is how almost all Democrats have governed since the days when Joe McCarthy terrorized the Truman administration. McGeorge “Mac” Bundy knew how to goad Lyndon Johnson deeper into Vietnam by explaining to his eager student that the “Goldwater crowd” was “more numerous, more powerful and more dangerous than the flea bite professors” complaining about the war. Republican presidents traditionally cater to their base or face the punishment. (See “Bush, George H.W.”) Democrats shovel shit in their base’s face and tell them they had better act like they like it or face what Bundy called “the wild men in the wings.” And it usually works…
By now, those smart fellows in the White House must have figured out that however impressive their accomplishments are by historical standards—and they are—they do not come close to offering Democrats a sufficiently popular program to stave off a likely Republican landslide come November, not at least without a radical—miraculous actually—reversal in the current job situation. And yet, it is at least possible that this too was part of the plan, (or at least “Plan B”). After all, they got a great deal done in their first two years, but it was a hard slog. Bill Clinton, who did not manage a fraction of what Obama accomplished in his first two years, saw his political fortunes saved by losing a midterm election and inviting voters to imagine what it would be like to be governed by fire-breathing Newt Gingrich and company. This time, what with the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, and Joe Barton, Obama and company must be salivating at the moment when voters are finally forced to take a good hard look at what Paul Krugman nicely calls the “invincible ignorance” of the alternative. Having handily won re-election in 2012, he might be able to build on the legislative achievements of his first two years to take his place alongside FDR and LBJ in terms of genuinely transforming the way our government works. That’s my theory, anyway.
In the meantime, the mavens of the media are going to continue to make arguments like, “Obama is not responsible for the leak, and, realistically, there was little he could do to expedite the repair. But for an irritable public, the Gulf Coast debacle was a reminder—horribly timed from Obama’s perspective—that Big Business and Big Government are often a problem, not a solution.” The arguments are made, without anyone being able to make any sense whatever of them—except that whatever the hell Obama is doing, it stinks, and he should cut it out right now and do the opposite… whatever that is.