End of free health insurance could push workers to seek jobs, experts say

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Unlike every other recession of the past four decades, workers are not returning to work in droves, even though most employers are hiring.

Many low-paid workers still fear COVID and face serious family issues returning to work, especially with their children.

“Jobs in direct services, retail, hospitality, restaurants; this is where employers struggle to find workers,” said the labor law attorney and former director of the ‘EDD, Mike Bernick. “I think child care and the continued uncertainty about schools is a factor.”

Add to that bad health insurance, says Janet Coffman, UCSF medical insurance expert.

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“If you’re a low-income person, sometimes the insurance that is offered to you as part of your job has a very high deductible,” Coffman said.

In many cases, the deductible can be as high as $ 5,000 or more, something few people with low or modest incomes have access to.

“You are probably living paycheck after paycheck,” Coffman said.

Consider this: For laid-off workers who had COBRA health insurance, the federal government had been paying it since last April. At the beginning of the month, this program ended. Many are forced to move to Medi-Cal.

“These people are looking at what the offer for employment-based coverage is and they might be better off sticking with Medi-Cal if their income is at the Medi-Cal threshold,” Coffman said.

Add to this the frequent presence of significant health problems in these families.

“We know that on average people with lower incomes are in poorer health, that it is understandable that they make the decision not to return to work on this basis and certainly those who have children,” said Coffman.

The best estimates are that during the pandemic, California alone lost 8,500 child care facilities. Many parents find it difficult to pay for child care.

“It’s understandable that some people say, ‘I’m going to stay home and take care of the kids,'” Coffman said.

Given all of this, we could soon see an increase in return to work, as the disappearance of government benefits could now force their return.


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