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Feeling Good Can Hurt Like Hell

sicko.jpg This past weekend I saw the Michael Moore film “SICKO”. Moore builds a compelling case for the moral bankruptcy of our current healthcare system, telling the stories of a man who can only afford to replace one of his two severed fingers, a middle-aged couple forced to move in with their children after being wiped out by medical costs, and destitute patients who are prematurely kicked out of hospitals and dropped off at homeless shelters. In one of the film’s most powerful lines, Moore asks a simple question: “Who are we?”
Compassion is certainly as valid a reason as any for healthcare reform, especially since any one of us could one day find ourselves in the position of some of the people Moore profiles. Yet as mediabistro.com’s Membership Director, a role in which I’ve received a crash course on freelance insurance options, I found myself wondering how often our employer-based system warps the career options of even those who don’t get sick.
Considering that we live in an age where people are increasingly seeking to break free of corporate shackles and strike out on their own, isn’t it ironic that we have a healthcare system that increasingly tries to stuff us back in? Among the media professionals who make up this site’s audience, how many would love to become full-time freelancers, but are instead forced to slog through a 9-to-5 job not because it provides any professional fulfillment, but solely to retain benefits? Alternatively, how many choose freelancing over insurance, knowing that they’re only one illness away from financial ruin (and from being the subject, rather than the author, of a New York magazine cover story)? I know all the historical reasons why Americans get their health insurance through employers, but, as with some bizarre cultural ritual that gets repeated simply because “That’s how it’s always been done”, we seem to have lost site of the fact that having employers provide us with healthcare makes about as much sense as having them provide us with spouses.
mediabistro.com created Membership offerings such as AvantGuild and Freelance Marketplace in order to give media professionals the tools they need for professional success. And I’m proud of the fact that we’re doing what we can to mitigate our members’ concerns by giving them access to discounted policies for freelancers and small businesses. But, to be perfectly honest, I wish we didn’t have to. Because I know that if our members were freed from having to worry about insurance, the creative energies it would unleash would be far better for mediabistro.com, the media industry, and the economy as a whole.
Over the next couple years, as our political system begins to grapple with healthcare reform, you’ll hear a lot of scare talk about how reform will destroy the economy and impose unimaginable costs. Whenever you hear someone make that argument, I hope you’ll ask them, “What about the costs we’re already paying?”
Greg Horowitz, Membership Director

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