Myrmecos

Health Care Reform and Photography

Every year my part-time photography business does a little better than the year before.  A few new clients, a few new venues, a few more visitors to my web sites.  It’s not a meteoric rise by any measure, but considering the current economic situation I am counting my blessings.

Naturally, of course, when business is good I muse about expanding it.  What would it take to become a full-time professional photographer?

If I replaced all the time I spent running PCRs with time spent calling up potential clients and marketing my wares, and replaced the time I spent writing papers with time spent writing magazine articles, I could probably approach the modest paycheck I make as a postdoctoral researcher. If the money were really flowing, I might even hire an assistant to look after the books and assist with some of the photo shoots.  You know, job creation.

What I might not be able to muster, though, is the full suite of affordable benefits I get as a university employee.  I’d have to either forgo insurance or buy into the pricey individual market where I’d be lucky to find coverage half as good for twice the price I currently pay.   The cost difference between large employers and individuals is insane.  And it’s not like university work merits lower premiums by being any healthier than photo work.  Hell, the lab has all sorts of hazardous chemicals.

So here we are, all we potential founders of new businesses and creators of new jobs.  We are stuck facing a massive industry-sponsored disincentive for moving ahead.

The American employer-based system introduces a significant inefficiency in the labor market.  It prevents people from moving to jobs where they may be happier or more productive.  It kills small business.  It’s a drain on job creation.  The net effect is that our system puts the country at an economic disadvantage.

Which is why I find the present dialogue over reform maddening.  I’m sick of all the banal accusations of “socialism” and “Obama-care”.  This isn’t about ideology, or about having the government take over health care.  It’s about how we are already sinking under the weight of a system that primarily benefits the entrenched corporations and the already wealthy at the expense of the remaining 95% of us.   We can’t afford not to have reform.

[an addendum: In all seriousness, I am not contemplating going full-time to photography; I am primarily a scientist and me dropping research would be like ants giving up honeydew.  I enjoy research too much to leave it. ]

Comments

  1. #1 jason
    October 15, 2009

    Well said, Alex. Well said indeed.

  2. #2 dorit
    October 15, 2009

    Exactly. Sad thing is, most people don’t see it, and we’d probably get no reform or some sort of reform that doesn’t improve anything. We’re, in academia, are lucky to have a relatively good benefits package, but when you compare it to other countries (for example, in Israel, everyone pays about $10 a month to get all the basic health care needs without additional charge – or at least that’s how it was 7 years ago) we’re complete suckers.

    What a shame…

  3. #3 uphilldowndale
    October 15, 2009

    Here in the UK we tend to take our National Health Service, for granted, but it’s the bees knees; a new job might come with a package that includes private health care, which can be speedier than the NHS for none urgent problems and a little more ‘upmarket’, but nobody is denied essential health care, from the cradle to the grave .

  4. #4 Ted C. MacRae
    October 15, 2009
  5. #5 jason
    October 15, 2009

    Ted! That is THE bestest, funniester stuff I done ever seen.

  6. #6 myrmecos
    October 15, 2009

    I wish our enemy really was the Vast Moran Conspiracy in those pictures. But they are mere distractions. It’s the suits on the boards of the insurance companies with their armies of lobbyists and friends in congress and the television media…

  7. #7 Anonymous
    October 15, 2009

    (Last paragraph: Which I why I find…)

  8. #8 myrmecos
    October 15, 2009

    ug.

  9. #9 Mike from Ottawa
    October 19, 2009

    I recall hearing that based on census stats (or some such), a higher proportion of Canadians than Americans are self-employed. Since ‘entrepreneurial’ is not the first word to come to mind when one mentions, it was suggested that the difference is due to the health care schemes of the two countries. In my life, I can’t recall ever hearing anyone in Canada mentioning health care as a factor in decisions about whether to change jobs or strike out on their own.

    Ours is far from perfect, but at least it is pretty much job-neutral.

  10. #10 J. Dusheck
    October 21, 2009

    You nailed it, Alex. I am a freelance science writer and my monthly health premium is now so high that I am going to have to drop my health insurance. I’ll look for catastrophic. But it’s scary because I’ve just been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, relatively mild so far. Hoping I can make it 10 years to medicare… I’ve been a responsible member of society, work hard, volunteer, raised kids, don’t break the rules, pay my taxes. But no safety net for me. And try getting a regular job with benefits at age 54.

  11. #11 Eric R. Eaton
    October 28, 2009

    Boy, can I ever empathize with J. Dusheck. I’m at least fortunate enough to be in good health, but I know exactly what you mean about trying to find another job in middle age, let alone one with benefits. I don’t have a college degree, so it is quite a steep challenge to keep working in something even remotely close to entomology or natural history writing, which are my two loves. I have contemplated stand-up comedy….Best wishes to you, JD.

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