One of the shameful results of the election has been the response from certain CEO’s on how they are going to either fire or reduce the hours of employees to prevent having to pay for basic healthcare for their employees. Papa John’s, Jimmy John’s, Applebees, Ace Hardware, etc. I say “Bring it on”. It is not the 1%’ers who are customers of these and other retail and restaurant establishments, rather, it is the same customer base who voted in high numbers to keep or expand Obamacare. The same customer base that passionately believes that healthcare for all is crucial to the long-term success of our country. I don’t want to use this space to repeat the many compelling arguments for Obamacare, but rather to ask how can we can ensure this becomes a market-driven requirement. Businesses that provide healthcare to 90+ percent of their workforce I want to spend my money there. I do not want to purchase any product that cannot trace its lifecycle back to where the workers were prevented from receiving healthcare – where business owners choose the penalty rather than the healthcare, where they choose to skirt the requirements by dropping work hours to 25 a week, etc.
Initially, the business owners that provide healthcare may need to raise their prices slightly, fine by me. I will pay the extra 15 cents or the extra 50 cents that the CEO’s want to pass along to the consumers rather than deprive themselves of a minor drop in their profits. I expect this to be the case for the first several years. If the majority of consumers do the same, all businesses will be back on a level playing field and the competition will drive the ultimate pricing.
While Obamacare is relatively safe for implementation over the next four years, it is at risk of being cut in 2016 if there has not been a large enough pool of people receiving health care to keep the costs down. If companies continue to drag their feet on implementation and the anti-healthcare states continue to drag their heels, full adoption could be delayed, making this a 2016 election year issue again. To avoid this, it needs to become a market-driven benefit. If consumers stay away from the businesses that fight Obamacare and patronize businesses that embrace health care for their employees, it will cease to be an election year issue. Why would a company that provides healthcare to its employees and gets additional consumers and public recognition for that fact, push for it to go away? The Obama administration has provided basic tools to start this direction, but it will likely be up to the market and consumers to shop that message home.
The question is, how can I (and others), easily get the information I need so I can spend my money responsibly? We have ways to identify green companies, Made-In-America and Fair Trade products. We can avoid blood diamonds. There are movements to identify sustainable seafood and identify products grown organically. I have not been able find a way to quickly determine which businesses are ensuring they provide healthcare to their workforce or which pair of jeans was made by workers who had health insurance. And the franchise issue makes it much harder as a specific brand cannot always be generalized in being a good player or a bad player in the space.
How can we organize and fund the creation of an organization that monitors and certifies businesses for providing healthcare to its employees? How can I get an app on my smart phone or a sticker in the window of a business establishment that lets me know a product I plan to buy was created/sold by employees who had Healthcare? I believe there are a majority of folks who would use information this as decision criteria in their purchasing, thus transforming the opposition arguments against Obamacare into a market-driven requirement that businesses want to provide in order to get consumers. Consumers will boycott companies that are not providing healthcare for their employees. Finding an easy way to distribute this information in a very visible manner is the key to a successful boycott.
This will be a lot of work – laying the groundwork, establishing the certification process, promoting the end certifications. Ideally this would be in place no later than the start of 2014. Can the DNC fund this work – they certainly have an excellent ground game to drive home the issues at the local level. Can OWS become involved? Maybe the Clinton Global Initiative?
I don’t have the answers on how to do this, but I believe strongly that if this is done and in place by 2014, the issue will stop being so political and will be more market-driven. And to the CEO’s who want to cheat, I say “Bring it on! You have once again underestimated your consumer base who will boycott your business until you see the moral imperative of providing healthcare for your workforce.”