Should Businesses be Required to Pay for Health Care Insurance – No

Per capita cost of health care in the United States is reaching upwards of $7,000 each year. Obviously this money must come from somewhere, and the most common response to the question as to where to go to meet the costs of health care is the State. Many people are starting to realize, however, that saying “the State” should pay for anything is the same as saying that somebody else, meaning other taxpayers, should foot the bill. Requiring that the State pay for health insurance or for health care directly is simple redistribution, a form of socialism.

If not the State, then who? “Those corporations” is the usual answer, meaning businesses. After all, the reasoning usually goes, workers are due a living wage and adequate benefits as part of their “social contract” with their employers. Classic moral philosophy even dictates that workers should be paid enough to meet common domestic needs adequately, and that includes such things as life and health insurance, possibly even education and two to three weeks of vacation each year.

The problem with that, however, is that classic moral philosophy is geared toward considering employees as “servants,” which is the euphemism in philosophy for “slaves.” In strict commutative justice, a master or parent owes his or her slaves or children enough to live on in a manner befitting the demands of human dignity, setting aside (for the sake of the argument and for expedience) the fact that forcing someone into a state of permanent dependency – another definition of “slave” – is contrary to the demands of human dignity, unless that individual has committed a crime and servitude is inflicted as punishment.

In America, however, workers are not legally chattel slaves or permanent dependents, but “independent others,” i.e., presumed equals of their employers. Classic moral philosophy simply does not apply. In strict commutative justice between “independent others,” an employer owes a worker the objective, market-determined value of his or her labor. If this includes enough to live on, fine. It may even include the cost of health insurance – if that is what the market demands in order to purchase that labor.

The caveat in moral philosophy is that if the market rate of labor goes below what is necessary to meet common domestic needs adequately, an employer owes his or her workers enough to live on decently – on the grounds that they are, de facto, now his or her slaves! This is why Aristotle called wage workers who owned nothing in the way of productive assets, “wage slaves,” cf. “The Politics.”

Of course, the employer then has the added responsibility of figuring out a way to increase the income of workers in a market-determined way that does not violate strict justice, so that the workers once again become “independent others.” And how is that to be done?

Fortunately, the answer as to who should pay for health insurance and how to raise non-owning workers to the status of independent others is the same. That is, restructure our financial and tax institutions to open up democratic access to the means of acquiring and possessing private property in the means of production.

By this means workers will be able to keep the market rate of labor as low as possible (thereby increasing employment), at the same time increasing individual incomes by being paid dividends (a share of profits) as owners – saving the company money by keeping wages low puts money in the owners’ pockets, and when the workers are the owners, they make more money all around.

By increasing incomes, workers can meet their own health insurance cost needs, lowering costs by doing it through their employers, but paying for it themselves. This, too, raises the bottom line and thus increases income the workers receive, adding savings by making the system more efficient.

One proposal to increase individual incomes in this manner is called “capital homesteading for every citizen.” It is an idea that is starting to spread, and deserves investigation by anyone interested in helping others gain an adequate and secure income from their own efforts.