Health insurance as a weapon to control workers

The cost of health insurance in the US has been steadily rising. Since most people get their health insurance through their workplace, employers have been passing on much of the increased costs to the employees in the form of high-deductible policies but it still represents a big cost for businesses. For a long time, I wondered why big business were not the biggest supporters of government-run, single-payer health care systems like Medicare For All since that would shed them of one of their biggest costs as well as rid them of all the cumbersome paperwork that accompanies it. You would think that this would be a good thing for them. So why were they not the biggest supporters? I had put it down to their ideological dislike of anything that smacks of socialism.

The strike by 30,000 General Motors workers at 49 plants currently now in its third week has revealed a more plausible reason. The strike was called by the workers because back when it looked like the US auto industry was going bankrupt, the companies were bailed out of their difficulties by the Barack Obama administration and by major concessions by the workers. Now the companies are showing big profits with big payoffs to shareholders and big salaries to executives. The workers had made sacrifices at a time of need and now that times were much better, they were asking for their share of the rewards. Of course, that was denied so the workers went on strike.

Just after the strike began on September 16th, GM announced that the strikers would lose their health benefits, clearly an attempt to force the workers to give up the strike. But after an uproar, they benefits were restored. A person named Leslie on Twitter said that this had suddenly revealed why big corporations resist a single-payer system even though you would think it would benefit them.

I believe Leslie is right. The removal of employer-based health care would make it easier for employees to leave poorly paying, abusive, and exploitative workplaces and this could well be the reason that big corporations do not embrace single payer systems. The cost of providing health insurance is more than offset by the ability to force workers to accept lower pay and poor working conditions.

There are times when the corporate oligarchy acts in such a way that it reveals their underlying strategy. It took the behavior of GM during the strike to possibly reveal why they want to retain the current employer-based health insurance system despite its many problems.


  1. jrkrideau says

    I once watch my niece’s husband spend hours on the telephone negotiating his acceptance of a new job in the Washington DC area. It seems like most of his conversation news about the health care package that the new company could offer.

    It was mind-boggling to me. I live in Canada and our health plans are essentially portable, basic Single Payer plans. Employer plans can easily top up benefits or cover areas that the government land does not but I cannot remember a time when the acceptance of a new job really rested on healthcare issues.

    I know that I can leave a job in Ontario, accept a new job in British Columbia and I will have generally speaking the same basic health care. And if the new job does not work out, I still have my health care because it is not linked to my employer.

  2. johnson catman says

    jrkrideau @1: It is really SAD that a supposed first world country like the US doesn’t provide even basic health care for its citizens. When people are faced with a decision between food or rent or health care, what the fuck are they supposed to do? The “richest nation in the world” is a poor example for the rest of the world as to how its citizens are treated.

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