DANI ALEXIS RYSKAMP: After threatening to drop its health insurance plan for its lowest-paid employees, McDonalds has asked for and gotten an exemption from the federal government to keep offering the plan, despite the fact that it doesn’t meet the new health care law requirement that 85% of the premiums paid go toward providing health services to the payees. After seeing the plan, however, I have to ask: who, exactly, is benefiting from this, or has McDonalds discovered yet another way to fleece the poor?
The health insurance plan in question offers three “tiers” of benefits. At the lowest tier, employees pay $727.48 per year (in weekly installments) for $2,000.00 worth of health coverage per year. This $2,000.00 does not include a $20 copay for office visits, a $10 copay for generic prescriptions, or a $50 copay for name-brand prescriptions. It also covers only 70% of inpatient services.
First, I have to seriously question the assumption that an individual McDonald’s worker who is attempting to live off that single paycheck can afford to shell out $14.00 per week for any type of insurance. I base this mostly on the experiences of friends who were forced into that existence after graduating from college into Michigan’s stellar economy. I cannot count the number of times I fielded desperate requests for $30 for medicine or $10 for toilet paper. I was only pulling $10.00 an hour myself at the time, but at least I had health benefits that didn’t leave me unable to buy basic human necessities.
Second, I have to wonder what kind of benefit one can receive from shelling out for this low-grade, low-quality insurance. In order to benefit, the employee/patient has to rack up more than $727.00 per year in covered health costs, but less than $2,000.00 per year. A single name-brand prescription will run the patient up to $600.00 out of pocket, not covered. As a patient with multiple chronic conditions, I’ve shelled out copays of $50 for prescriptions that cost six times that per month – but that $2,000.00 cap is alarmingly low. And with that cap applying even to emergency services, this plan is not a “life saver” by any means – $2,000.00 is pocket change in a life-threatening emergency.
Thanks to the new health care law, most of the people currently eligible for McDonald’s “health insurance” will be eligible for Medicaid by 2014. I’d like to hope that is not too little, too late – but I have to believe that it is.
DAN SZYMBORSKI: Perhaps McDonald’s can develop their new insurance policy. If you’re working at McDonald’s and probably eating McDonald’s food. you probably don’t have a long to live anyway. After tasting a Big Mac, I think Sarah Palin should swoop in because McDonald’s greasy food is akin to a culinary death panel.
Seriously though, McDonald’s is in a pretty tough position here. No, the insurance isn’t much, but given costs, it’s pretty damn cheap. And most McDonald’s workers aren’t exactly 60-year-olds needing hip replacements and chemotherapy either. Sadly, you can’t get more than you pay for and very inexpensive insurance isn’t going to pay for much. I’m not sure that having health insurance at all works out that well for an average, healthy 20-year-old working at McDonald’s – even in the event of a very unusual problem, bankruptcy is a much cleaner solution for a person making minimum wage and unlikely to have many assets than your average middle-class/upper-middle-class family.
On a larger note, while Republicans drastically oversold the socialist evils of the reform bill that passed, Democrats did drastically undersell the unexpected consequences. Though as a libertarian, I’m not surprised to find either political party reality-challenged.
I think the ultimate solution is for McDonald’s to simply pay out benefits in fries. Be honest, when you get back into your car with fast food, what are your car passengers reaching for? They’re not trying to pilfer your wallet, they’re trying to take your fries. Fries are clearly inflation-proof and significantly more tasty than currency. Everyone reading this has probably put a fry in their mouth in the last few years. How many people try to taste nickels after the age of 5? While I recall Scrooge McDuck occasionally biting gold coins to make sure they are real (I know nothing about metals, so I’m going to assume that a duck biting gold is a legitimate test), but even if he got sick, anyone with a giant swimmable vault full of gold coins can probably afford pretty good health insurance.
Moral of the story? Eat at McDonald’s, die young, and do your part to save Medicare and Social Security!