The United States is a country dedicated to the principles of free trade, the freedom of businesses to rise, grow, and mature, to employ the nation’s citizens, to use its infrastructure, and to profit. Business is the lifeblood of the American way of life, a way of life that Americans have defended with blood, sweat, and tears. In exchange for this exalted position, business has been required to pay taxes, but also to provide health care plans for their employees. Until recently, the cost of health care plans for employees have seriously reduced the employer’s bottom line, especially those of small businesses. With the passage of the health care reform bill of 2010, small businesses will be given help to meet this responsibility, and still be able to make a profit.
Assigning to business the provision of health care plans for their employees was the country’s way of affirming that many people become ill as a result of working hard, that businesses ‘use up’ these people, and that businesses have a moral responsibility to care for their employees, some of whom virtually give up their lives for the company’s goals. Teddy Roosevelt expressed this understanding when he castigated business for “throwing back upon the community the human wreckage due to its wear and tear.” For him, and as it turned out, for the nation, business could meet its responsibility to its employees and to the nation by providing insured health care.
In the future, robots might well run the whole enterprise, but for now, businesses require people to achieve their business goals. It’s also true that work does takes its toll on humans, on their bodies, minds, and family life. Before business was assigned the responsibility of providing health care plans for their employees, the money paid to the employee was regarded as compensation for both the work performed and the cost to the employee’s health. That changed, as the impact of work on the employee became clearer, and the dependence of business on the employee was no longer understated. Eventually, compensation for labor was no longer strictly defined by a paycheck; fair compensation came to include health insurance. Today, its no longer just an expectation; health insurance in now our national law.
The United States health care reform bill of 2010 requires businesses employing 50 persons or more to provide health insurance to their employees. However, this provision doesn’t take effect until 2014, four years from now. In the meantime, to encourage business to provide health care coverage for their employees now, small businesses will receive tax credit incentives if they do. This will enable small businesses to achieve a better bottom line than they currently enjoy, due to the high cost of medical insurance, including their group health care plans.
Whether the rationale for assigning health care coverage to businesses today is valid or not, business has been irrevocably assigned the task. At least you can be sure your competitors are having their profits reduced by the same health care expense. They’re not going to have the extra profit to spend on quality improvement any more than you are. Quality products and services are what made the U.S. the great economic power that it was. Quality employees are a significant factor in creating quality products and services. Finding and training good employees can be expensive. Inexpensive, but comprehensive health care plans can be used as an enticement for getting and keeping quality employees. Your employees will, at some point, get sick. Without medical treatment, they could be absent a long time or could even die. Getting them healthy as quickly as possible and keeping them alive, as crude as it may sound, increases the probability that your company will continue to provide the quality products or services that keep your profits high. The burden may be hard, although there are also some benefits to be gained. However, the real prize of providing health care plans is in being not only a profitable company, but a noble one.