Sunday, March 25, 2012

How my married colleagues cash in on health care

My employer, like many, subsidizes health insurance for full-time employees. The company pays 85% of the cost, leaving each of us to pay 15%. In my case, that amounts to about $8,000 a year that the company pays so that I am more financially secure. Very generous. Thank you.

But in the case of my married colleagues, the company comes up with twice that. Not because they contribute any more or have more valuable skills. Only because they are married and want their spouses (and in some cases, their children) to come along for the ride. 

The financial security of my married colleagues in the plan is subsidized to the tune of $15,000 a year; those with children receive a subsidy of more than $22,000 a year. That's a lot of extra security accorded to some, denied others.

To balance the equation, my company could provide single employees with an equivalent benefit--say a contribution to a 403b account (one potential advantage of working for a non-profit) that is equal to the "excess" subsidy. 

Or, the company could make coverage for an employee's spouse or child/ren available but let the employee pay their way.  All possible, all proposed, all denied.

Yes, I tried to convince my employer how patently unfair this practice is for single employees. No matter how widespread or entrenched, investing more in married employees is simply unjust, I argued. 

My well-supported proposal for any one of several equitable plans needed due-diligence review by the higher-ups. Fair enough. 

Eight moths later, yes, all my calculations were correct. Yes, my alternative plans were feasible. But they were all deep-sixed on the basis that any change would be unfair to married staff. 

What the...?

We have a new CEO on the way soon and I plan to re-make my case later in the year. I'll let you know how it goes. 

In the meantime, as I have been when I first read Lawrence Ferlinghetti's awesome "Coney Island, I remain "perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder." You can listen to "Coney Island" read by A.M. Homes, courtesy of PEN.

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