This letter was sent to our local paper, The Intelligencer. A group of about 70 occupied State and Main Streets in Doylestown, PA .
I have never held a sign in a public place before Occupy. I do now. I “occupy.” And here is why. I was a co-owner of two businesses in Bucks County. We sold our last business in part because I wanted to really understand how we access healthcare in this country.
I had personal experiences with providing health benefits that alarmed me. I was very concerned that employers across this country were looking to hire as many part time workers as possible as a way to control healthcare costs. Also, I saw that if an employer unwittingly hired a “sick” person, the whole group might lose health insurance. (Yes, if you are applying for a job with a small company that provides benefits, that employer wants to know your health history but can’t ask.)
It works this way. If one member of a group has a lot of claims, the insurance companies won’t want to keep a group that is costing them money. It’s called “purging.” Insurance companies try to dump as many unprofitable customers as possible. Here’s how. They raise the premiums so high that the employer can no longer afford to carry insurance. An option for the employer is to drop insurance altogether even for himself. But then what?
Worst-case scenario is that the small business owners can’t drop health coverage because they need it. They, themselves, might have pre-existing conditions, and know that they are uninusurable anywhere else. They then find the money for the 40% premium hike, and hope the sick employee, who is actually using the insurance, quits.The exorbitant rate hike gives the employer less money to grow his business, and all because his small group is actually USING the insurance.
And this is how our employer-based system for accessing healthcare is anti-business and NOT a model of the free market working. A free market says we can NOT buy something we don’t like. We can buy elsewhere. Not the case with health insurance. Pre-existing conditions preclude shopping around.
I have learned so much in my 2 1/2 years of researching this subject through my art project. And what I have learned has been a call to action to occupy. I will be happy to share what I have learned with anyone. I will give talks. I will stand on street corners. But do ideologues really want to know? I will “occupy” any way I can to tell the truth about what is happening to real people.