For many Americans, health cover is key to a job

Thu Jul 9, 2009 2:07pm EDT
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By Ed Stoddard

SOUTHLAKE, Texas (Reuters) - Real estate agent Lisa DeWaal serves coffee at a Starbucks outlet for four hours every morning before she goes to the office to start her "day job."

The reason has little to do with the state of the housing market and everything to do with the one big perk that 20 hours a week at the coffee counter provides: affordable health insurance for her and her three children.

While health experts say there are no statistics available, analysts say there are many Americans like DeWaal: people who have taken or stick to a job just for the health insurance.

It is a situation most Europeans, Canadians and others who enjoy national health services would find bewildering if not appalling and is one factor fueling the drive to reform the hugely expensive U.S. healthcare system.

"People will even stick with a job they feel boxed in on because of the healthcare benefits, especially if those benefits cannot be matched elsewhere," said Andrew Sum, a labor economics professor at Northeastern University.

U.S. company healthcare plans are usually subsidized by the employer. They are much more affordable and comprehensive than private plans that can exceed a $1,000 a month for a family, a huge burden for most households.


As a result, company plans can make even a low-wage job an attractive option.   Continued...

<p>Scott Duncan prices books at Half Price Books where he works in Dallas, Texas July 7, 2009. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi</p>