Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Health Insurance Chronicles, # Umpteen

S's sous chef is probably the most important person in my life whom I never see. When S has a good sous chef, life rocks. The restaurant runs smoothly, S works five days a week and is calm and happy, my family has a (relatively) present, calm, happy father, and thus has a calmer, happier mother (that would be me). When S does not have a sous chef, or has a bad sous chef, the consequences similarly trickle down to the rest of us: he has to work more, he has to worry about the restaurant even when he is home, there are more crises, more tension, more grumpiness, and we all suffer in kind.

Right now S has a great sous chef. He is a good cook AND a good manager, he has fabulous attitude, everyone likes him, he's a Red Sox/Dropkick Murphys fan, he has awesome tattoos and no girlfriend (we want him to have a girlfriend because we want him to be happy, but we're secretly kind of glad he doesn't, because no girlfriend=more flexibility to work). He is a huge improvement over the last sous chef, and life has improved concomitantly.

Only he told S today that he might have to leave. Why? Because he has a heart problem and needs health insurance.

Yes, it's true, the restaurant does not provide health insurance. S has never worked for a restaurant that offered health insurance (because he works for small hip restaurants, not big chains or hotel restaurants). This is why, now that I am a consultant, we are paying for bad health insurance out of pocket. Which we have to because of kids and which we are lucky to be able to afford because between us we make enough money (for bad health insurance).

Why doesn't the restaurant provide health insurance? When I'm feeling cranky and need a real person to blame (like this afternoon, when I learned that the sous chef might have to leave and ruin my life), I rail about the restaurant's owner who does provide health insurance at his other restaurant and could obviously provide it at this one too, as I vociferously pointed out to S this afternoon, underscoring the fact that if he did it would make a tangible difference in our life as well. But when I'm feeling thoughtful and economical, I acknowledge that providing health insurance, even sucky health insurance with a big employee premium, can be the difference between profit and not for a small business, and thus can be the difference between a small business barely hanging on and a small business folding, and thus the difference between my husband (and a bunch of other people) having a job and not.

So what's the answer? Government health insurance that does not depend on your job. Duh.