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Scenes From an Italian Restaurant

One of the issues that our "Working in America" survey highlights is the importance of health benefits to employees as they evaluate whether to stay in their current positions. Tonight, I was out to dinner with my family after having visited my mother in the hospital. My parents are retired, but fortunate to have excellent health insurance. The hospital where my mother is being treated is a well regarded suburban hospital - attractive, clean, and expanding. Even with all its advantages, it's clear that the floors are understaffed and patients wait for assistance when they ring for help. My mother's doctor had delayed sending her there, fearing that the upside of monitoring her could be undone by the risk of hospital induced infection. No one wants to be in the hospital, but it's increasingly difficult for hospitals to provide excellent care given staff shortages and the ongoing pressure to contain expenses.

At the restaurant, an older woman sitting next to us was angrily talking to her friend about her current work situation. She'd had an experience this week where she felt disrespected and unappreciated. She was talking about quitting. Her friend was urging her to consider her next steps carefully, reminding her that she had full health benefits in her current position. Health benefits are ironic that way. The last thing any of us wants is to end up in the hospital, but we surely want to be able to pay the bills if we do.

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