This morning, I heard this odd commentary on NPR by a recent college graduate about her woes of being uninsured. There are millions of Americans who are so inextricably poor that they cannot afford health insurance and are utterly screwed when they get sick. But I'm not convinced that Molly Adams is one of them.
"So what do you do?" is a question people ask a lot when you're fresh out of college. I'm a freelancer, doing all kinds of broadcast production jobs. But that doesn't cover my rent, so I'm also a bartender. And neither of these jobs comes with health insurance.
I do some freelance writing on the side, too. But Ms. Adams: very, very few people manage to earn a living doing freelance anything. Broadcasting? Is there a job market for that? It's time to re-assess priorities. Hie thee to the nearest big box retailer and apply for work there. Do that at about ten others, too. Sure, the work is rough, but these companies offer medical insurance.
Freelancing is not the path to financial security. If you can get there, that's great! But you need a serious back-up plan because the odds are not good. Get yourself a drone job and do freelancing on the side.
A few weeks ago, before I was dropped from my parents' plan, I had an eye exam and a physical. It was like a last meal. I asked way more questions than I ever did before. I've started flossing my teeth every day, something I never did when I knew I could go to a dentist if I had a problem.
It's amazing how valuable things become when you suddenly have to pay for them.
I have co-workers at the restaurant where I work who have never been able to put more than $2,000 into their checking accounts — and it's not just the artists. I know many people who are waiting tables or tending bar while they work two unpaid internships to earn a place in a company. That's why a lot of us are just not that into health care — it doesn't make a lot of financial sense.
You know what doesn't make a lot of financial sense? Working two unpaid internships (I speak from experience). Now if your friends think that the potential payoffs -- fantastic jobs -- are worth the risks, then they should take the risks. But they should be prepared for their bet not going their way.
But I do worry about a catastrophic event. I ride my bike a lot in a city filled with bad drivers. I worry about getting into an accident. And when I think about not being covered, and maybe having to spend $20,000 on a broken leg, I admit I get bitter. Why is it that I'm working 40 hours a week, contributing to society, and yet I still don't have health insurance? Aren't I earning it?
Ms. Adams, society doesn't owe you anything. Even your employer doesn't owe you anything beyond the wages that you've agreed to work for. You don't get insurance by contributing to society. You get insurance by getting a job that offers it. You get insurance by deciding that having it is worth not having the exact job that you want.
You may decide that a potential future that springs from your freelance broadcasting jobs is worth the risk of going without insurance. But you're the one making that decision.
Now it may seem like I'm a bit condescending to Molly Adams and her perspective. Or more than a bit. To clarify: I'm not at all surprised that a recent college graduate is discovering that her dream job will not appear and immediately elevate her into the lifestyle that she wants.
After all, I used to be that kid. I was 22 and had a history degree. But I had insurance within a few months of graduating because I went to work in a warehouse shoving boxes around. The job was awful and the pay unimpressive, but I wanted a job that offered insurance. So I went out and got one.
I'm not surprised that a young, recent college graduate has an adolescent view of the world. But I am surprised that NPR found this opinion worthy of national broadcast.