Consider being the manager of a restaurant. Your workplace reopens, which is important because things have been financially tight the past few months. But, you have a child with a heart condition that leaves them immunocompromised. The littlest illness could put them in the hospital for days or even weeks, let alone what a diagnosis of Covid-19 would do for them. You don’t want to go back to a job where you can’t be certain you won’t come home with Covid-19, but your family needs the health insurance provided by your employer. What do you do?
For many, this is reality. The employer-based health system in the US crafts a situation where individuals must choose between their health or their financial security. A quarter of American workers are at high risk for Covid-19, with a number of them experiencing heart disease issues. Because of inequities in health care, many people also experience financial difficulties – particularly in communities of color. With 61% of all working-age adults receiving health care through the workplace, it’s all the more difficult for people with higher risk for Covid-19 complications to decide if they should stay home or risk their health and wellness so they can still get health care.
Those who don’t have a job to come back to may lose their health care safety net, especially in places without Medicare expansion. Where health care is available, it may be prohibitively expensive for people to sign up. This puts not only these people at risk but the community at risk because they won’t have the health care to rely on if they are to get sick. This reduces the likelihood that people seek care for Covid-19 or other conditions due to concerns about cost.
Healthcare inequity has been a real concern for years. Now, due to so many issues related to health and equity being present of mind, we’re seeing the direct impact of these inequities and how they affect those who need care most. Health care costs directly affect forward mobility for many Americans. We must address healthcare inequities so that we can ensure people in all workplaces can feel safe and secure when they return to work.
While we work to address systemic issues, let’s do our part to support the American workforce by following CDC recommended guidelines for masks in public, hand washing, and social distancing. If a business opens with guidelines in place, follow the guidelines and treat their employees with courtesy and gratitude in their efforts to keep all of us safe. Together we can safely weather these storms.