Better business — and a better life — through health reform and new work-life standards

Whether it’s pro football or Monopoly, to play freely and fairly, everyone’s got to use the same rulebook – and play by them.

The same goes for the rules of our economy — but our nation’s patchwork of health care plans and lack of consistent work-life standards makes it too tempting for some employers to cut corners on basic health standards for workers, and too hard for good businesses to provide health insurance to their workers.

As recently noted by the L.A. Times:

As many as 43% of American workers in private industry don’t have paid sick days, according to 2007 data from the federal government. If they call in sick, they lose their pay and, sometimes, their jobs.

That number has risen over the years, part of a larger trend to cut back on sick leave. Among workers who do still have the once-venerable benefit, many have found their days reduced or lumped together as part of their vacation time. The United States — unique among industrialized countries — doesn’t mandate a minimal number of paid sick days for workers.

This decline in benefits is itself a symptom of a sick economic system – one in which businesses sacrifice long-term health and productivity in favor of short-term gains through benefits reduction.

Small business entrepreneurs not only recognize this problem, they want comprehensive health reform – with government playing a key role.

As RJ Eskow points out in the Huffington Post:

A recent study of New York small business owners shows that more than half believe small businesses have an obligation to provide health coverage. What’s more, 51% think they should be required to provide it.

But do they distrust government solutions, preferring to let “the market” solve everything? Apparently not: 72% support the option of joining state-run insurance pools, and a stunning 85% think government should act as a “watchdog” over health insurance companies.

Why? Partly because they know our broken health system stifles innovation. And partly because they know that many American businesses struggle with runaway health costs, or with workers who can’t get treatment for their medical problems. That means they can’t compete on a level playing field, domestically or internationally. And without a level playing field, the free market can’t operate.

Making health care universally available to all Americans would reduce the economic burden on business. Stopping the slide in basic work-life standards for our workers would ensure no one has to choose between going to work and taking care of their family.

Even more importantly, these changes would unleash a tremendous amount of much-needed entrepreneurial energy into our economy. Thousands of Americans would find themselves free to seek their fortunes and support their families by finding better jobs and starting new businesses — without having to worry about keeping their health coverage, or whether they can devote time to their families when they’re needed at home.

In other words, health care reform and new work-life standards can help clear the path to the American Dream.

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