Sunday, September 18, 2011

Heathcare Inequities

Let's start by acknowledging that I'm a conservative Republican. I did not vote for Barack Obama, but I'm also not a fan of extremists like Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman. I generally favor fiscal restraint and limited government.

That said, I do support the healthcare for all initiative we have in Massachusetts. It just seems right to me to provide a means for all citizens to afford healthcare, to require large corporations to participate in the effort, and to ask citizens who choose to opt out to pay a small portion of the costs the state incurs in providing free care to those who choose to forgo insurance.

Recently, Applebees sold 66 stores in New England to Apple American Group LLC. Apple American has over 16,000 employees and operates 270 stores. As part of the sale, all employees in the affected stores were terminated by Applebees, and rehired by Apple American. Waitstaff in Massachusetts were offered health insurance, as required by law.

Yesterday, I was dining at an Applebees restaurant in Maine that was affected by the sale. My dining companion was a Massachusetts Applebees waitress, and she struck up a conversation with our server about the coming changes. She asked the server what she thought of the new uniform requirements. The server replied that the uniform change didn't bother her - what bothered her was LOSING HER HEALTH INSURANCE. That's right, as part of the sale, her new employer is not offering insurance. She was told about her rights to COBRA, which more than tripled her monthly cost. This woman is not young, but she is still several years away from being eligible for Medicare. She is an older employee in a tough job market. She can't afford the COBRA payments, so she is choosing to go without insurance. She said that she just hopes she won't get sick or need expensive prescription drugs.

Massachusetts waitstaff are protected by law; Maine waitstaff are not. That is not right.

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