It’s time that everyone have a stake in the health insurance game, and recipients of employer-funded programs are no exception. But it’s going to take a seismic shift in attitude from employees who enjoy such perks. Which won’t be easy, given how ingrained is the idea of comprehensive health benefits as a part of one’s overall compensation package.
I have five words for workers who still enjoy so-called “Gold” health insurance plans paid for by their employers – Enjoy That While It Lasts.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down to an early dinner with a woman who works as an executive for a giant telecom company that happens to provide service in my area (hope it doesn’t get turned off if she reads this). As I gazed into her lovely eyes she told me about how her company is being bought out by an even larger one, and then I couldn’t help myself. I let my curiosity get the better of me, and committed the ultimate no-no on a first date.
I started talking health insurance.
In fact, before our drinks had even arrived I completely lost control and started grilling her about the benefits packages offered by such a rich, technology-sector employer. Needless to say, these folks enjoy the type of health insurance coverage that would make a mere mortal’s mouth water. When she informed me that indeed, she had always picked the “Gold” plan I knew I was getting somewhere with her.
So naturally I posed the question, hoping that she would say what I so desperately wanted to hear. “Why did you choose Gold?” Her answer was simply “because it’s the best.”
YES!!! Now I knew I had her. She was all mine.
This is a conversation I’ve had many, many times, and whether it’s been while sitting across a table from someone, or in front of a group of hundreds, I love the reaction I get when I venture into that undiscovered country called health insurance.
Because when I start revealing the real costs of health care, and use objective data to show that most Americans waste thousands a year over-insuring themselves, eyes open and jaws drop. And when I’m finished with my little lesson, it’s easy to see how minds (and hopefully some lives) have been changed with the realization of just how big a scam our health insurance – and health care – industries have been running on us.
I’ve even become somewhat arrogant about it; I openly challenge folks to tell me I’m wrong.
So I thought my date would be interested to hear how flawed her thinking is. And as I triumphantly finished educating this already educated woman, the appetizer was set before us and I expected the usual “wow” reaction to escape her lips. But in this case, that wasn’t the case. Instead, my fiery redhead responded with a delivery that was so swift, and so elegant that I never saw it coming, and was completely caught off-guard. She said “I don’t care.”
I was stumped. Stupefied. Speechless.This had never happened before; like a fencing master with a mile-long undefeated streak, it was like being actually hit for the first time ever in a duel. And I was simply left with no counter.
But it didn’t take long for me to parry her thrust. So I asked her why she didn’t care, already knowing the obvious answer to this, too – “because my employer pays most of the premium.”
At this point, despite the look of distaste she was now wearing, I regained my full composure and struck again. I asked her if she thought she should care about how much her employer was paying to over-insure employees like her. Now with an utter look of disinterest that she managed to show in between bites of guacamole-laden tostada, she shrugged.
So I told her about how employers, in a misguided attempt to keep their employees “healthy,” spend over $6,000 a year for health insurance for single employees like her, and over $17,000 a year for families. I told her about how Starbucks spends more on employee health insurance than it does for coffee. And then I delivered the coup de grâce to her argument – I asked her if she thought her attitude could change, if she would at least consider the less costly health plans in an effort to help her employer save money and thus, benefit the American economy in the long run.
At which point she dropped her proverbial foil and acceded defeat by withdrawing from the match entirely. It was a civil exit, but unfortunately we never even made it to the main course.
Lesson learned. Memo to Kev – don’t talk health insurance when there are other, more important things to explore.