Since UPS announced that they would no longer offer health insurance benefits to spouse’s who have health insurance offered to them at work, I have had to field many questions. People are asking me how UPS can even go this.
Many people have heard so much about health insurance through work that they think it is a right. That is incorrect!
Health insurance at work is still a privilege. It does not become a right until January 2015. Perhaps it will help to understand the history of health insurance in the workplace.
HISTORY OF WORK-BASED HEALTH INSURANCE
When World War II came along, most young, healthy males were either drafted or volunteered for military service. After the attack on Pearl Harbor there were very few “conscientious objectors.” Those people who were against killing the enemies of our nation still volunteered for non-combative positions.
On the home-front, the work-force was made up of older men, conscientious objectors and women. The majority of them had very little experience or skills in the factories.
On top of everything else, the government elected to freeze wages for workers for the duration of the war. Business owners were not able to give valuable employees raises in their wages.
In order to attract and retain skilled, trained, valuable employees, business owners would offer benefits, other than cash, as inducements. One of those benefits was a recent development called “health insurance.”
HISTORY OF HEALTH INSURANCE
In 1929 Blue Cross developed a contract that promised that for a small monthly payment, the “insured” would have a large portion of his/her hospital bills paid for them should they ever need to be hospitalized.
A couple of years later, Blue Shield offered a similar contract that guaranteed that a portion of an “insured’s” doctor’s bill would be paid.
Prior to 1929, the term, “Health Insurance,” referred to what we know today as disability income insurance.
(The idea that President Obama advanced that the nation has been looking for a national health insurance plan since Teddy Roosevelt is historically inaccurate. There was no such thing as Major Medical insurance when Teddy Roosevelt was president.
The first hospital insurance plan was not available until the end of the Hoover administration. The first insurance plan that would pay doctor’s bills was not available until the FDR administration.)
A couple of decades later they combined to form the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association that we know today. It promises that if an “insured” get sick, a large portion of both doctor’s and hospital bills would be paid.
WWII occurred after Blue Cross and Blue Shield incorporated but before they merged. During that time business owners would buy contracts from one, or the other “insurance company” as a benefit for the employee since they were not able to reward them with cash bonuses or wage increases.
The idea was that these “benefits” would encourage trained employees to remain loyal and entice skilled laborers to work for a company.
IS HEALTH INSURANCE A RIGHT OR PRIVILEGE?
Seventy years later, things are different. Rather than “health insurance” being appreciated by employees as a benefit, it is considered, by many, as a right.
The truth is that it will not become a “right” until January, 2015. At that time it will only be a “right” for people who are full-time employees of companies with more than 50 full-time, non-seasonal employees.
For people who are unemployed or work for companies with fewer than 50 full-time employees, health insurance will still be an optional benefit at work.
It is important for all legal Americans to remember that whether they get their health insurance at work or are responsible to buy their own health insurance, they are required to have government approved health insurance, regardless of who pays for it.