I Have Seen the Future of Work and it Sucks

A world in which we're all contractors is a dystopian utopia.

Many are arguing that the pre-COVID economy will never return. Even some of the optimistic forecasts are rather depressing.

Joe Mullings, a veteran executive recruiter, sells such a vision in an op-ed for CNBC titled “More companies will offer remote work at price of staff position. Take the deal.” After several paragraphs establishing that companies have decided that their labor force can indeed be productive at home, he outlines a very dystopian utopia.

This alignment between employee desire and employer needs is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the moribund employment landscape. The next step: transitioning these workers into independent contractors.

Uh huh.

Now that the pandemic has shown that many companies can function pretty much as usual with remote employment, businesses will strike a deal with their full-time employees: Allow them the lifestyle of working from home in return for becoming a contract worker. Given that up to 25% of labor costs are besides earned wages — paid personal time off, health-care benefits, retirement plans and other additional costs — the potential savings are enormous.

So, I get why employers would like to save a quarter of their labor costs. But why would workers want to lose vacation, health, and retirement benefits?

Employees will thrive as independent contractors. Think, for example, entertainment and sports. In the not too distant past, virtually all film actors were salaried employees of the major Hollywood studios. That changed dramatically with a 1949 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ended the vertically integrated studio system of producing, distributing and exhibiting movies. A decade later the biggest and brightest stars were independent contractors, represented by talent agents. Similarly, most professional athletes in the U.S. before the 1990s didn’t have agents.

If you’re Tom Hanks or Aaron Rodgers, this is a fantastic system, indeed. But the vast majority of actors and athletes are disposable commodities, unable to eke out a living.

Sought-after employees across many industries will have agents representing their careers. Newer players will be able to ride on the established stars’ coattails, a process that will set industry-standard contract work fees and perks.

So, in addition to giving up paid vacation having to pay every cent of our health insurance and retirement costs, we’re going to give a percentage of our incomes to an agent? And, unless something changes in terms of salary transparency, the only way to know what others will make is if you have the same agent and they violate their clients’ privacy.

Contract workers with similar backgrounds will form trade organizations. This may be in the form of professional unions, if you will, to represent themselves collectively, much as film and TV actors have with the Screen Actors Guild, and professional athletes have with various players’ unions. (Facebook employees’ very public disagreement with Mark Zuckerberg over President Donald Trump’s questionable messaging may be a sign of bigger things to come in terms of employee self-empowerment.)

Workers have largely been unable to unionize under our present system for decades. How would a shift to contract-only arrangements change that?

Yes, there have been a handful of prominent examples of late wherein employees revolt against management, forcing major concessions. But it’s not obvious why that’s more likely when there are no permanent employees.

Home will become a mini metropolis for each worker. Virtually any service will be efficiently delivered to an individual’s home, including health care. In fact, health care will help drive the new interim economy as big tech streamlines the delivery of state-of-the-art medicine through telehealth and big data innovations.

Unless one has a very large, nice home, this hardly sounds like paradise. Even most of us who are reasonably well off have realized during the months of being shut in more than normal how important it is for our sanity to get out of the house on a regular basis.

I’m more introverted than most and do the sort of work that can be done from home, often with more efficiency. But it’s really only desirable when it’s not the norm and I have the house to myself. With the wife and kids at home at the same time, I’m never fully in work mode—and never fully leave work mode to switch into home mode. That’s not healthy long term.

Professional branding will make resumes obsolete. The No. 1 activity that every worker in the interim economy should get comfortable with is professional branding and reputation building in their respective areas of expertise. The days of sending out resumes, answering job postings and hoping to tap into analog networks of exclusively “people you know” will no longer create the best opportunities for employment. Actively networking, proper positioning of work experience and personal web pages for careers will all be critical assets for career building.

This, inadvertently at first, has been my story for going on two decades now. While I founded this site back in January 2003 as a hobby, it did indeed help establish a “brand” that carried over into other social media platforms and publishing across a variety of platforms I likely would never have done otherwise. And that, in turn, was very much instrumental in my career advancement.

Still, I don’t see how that could possibly become the norm for people outside the ideas industry. Are skilled tradesmen really going to get hired based on their Twitter and Instagram presence? If anything, I’d think Twitter and the like are more likely to backfire on most people, with jokes that land or age poorly being a cause for dismissal or rejection.

Workers ages 50 plus, who will represent 35% of the labor market in 2022 (a combination of late baby boomers and early Gen Xers), will be targeted first for dis-employment because they tend to have the highest salaries. On the other hand, they have the most experience and institutional knowledge, which will become critically important in a world of on-demand workers.

Millennials will have to compete both with younger and older workers for income but will have the advantages of enough experience and a generational tech savviness to make themselves unique assets. Gen Zers will be handicapped by their lack of experience but will succeed by their willingness to occupy initially the lower end of the pay scale and through their sheer toughness born out of experiencing the Great Recession as children and now the pandemic as young adults.

To some degree, that’s how the economy has always worked. Experienced but expensive older workers have always had to compete against less experienced, cheaper, younger ones. Most visibly, that’s the story of professional sports. But it’s true across many economic sectors.

Still, it’s not obvious why workers would be thrilled for more of it. Especially if us 50-year-olds are going to be competing against 20-year-olds on the basis of our ability to do sick burns via TikTok meme.

We’re about to embark on a new employment revolution. Both companies and individuals who embrace the new interim economy will thrive. As humans, we tend to process changes through our existing reality or self-imposed limitation. This is one of those times when we really need to look at things as they are, not as we see them.

Mullings may well be describing something close to the emerging reality. And, as with all economic upheavals, there will likely be some benefits. But it mostly sounds rather depressing.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Economics and Business
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jen says:

    I’ve been working as a freelance writer/PR consultant for about 7 years now. I’m still 15 years from Medicare eligibility.

    The ONLY way this works right now is if the contracted employee has a spouse with health care benefits. The ONLY way this would work on a widespread scale that the piece is suggesting is if we have a public healthcare system.

    If this country slides into this as the norm, there will be millions more without healthcare because contract work does not pay enough to cover individual health plans (this will, of course, be a hundred times worse if this administration succeeds in killing the pre-existing condition component of the ACA).

    Seriously, at what point do we just acknowledge that unrestricted capitalism is pushing us to third-world status?

    34
  2. MarkedMan says:

    I get various emails from Joe Mullins’ recruiting firm hyping his “innovations”. Nothing really offensive, but nothing remotely innovative. Someone on his staff writes dorm room level analysis such as this and it is sent out every week or so to keep the firm’s name on your mind.

    8
  3. Barry says:

    It’s just another fat cat urging the 99% to take a massive hit for the good of the 1%. And even within a column which is an overall lie, he has this:

    ‘Newer players will be able to ride on the established stars’ coattails, a process that will set industry-standard contract work fees and perks.’

    That just doesn’t work anywhere. IIRC, in the NBA the players’ union forced minimum starting salaries.

    13
  4. HarvardLaw92 says:

    The biggest logistical problem that I see in his admittedly fanciful proposal is that it isn’t as simple as saying “*pouf* – you’re a contractor now”. As many companies (Uber, et al) are now discovering, they don’t get to disconnect themselves from the associated expenses of having traditional employees while retaining traditional levels of control over the work practices of those they’re trying to deem contractors. Successfully doing so requires a degree of worker independence that just won’t, indeed can’t, fly in many workplaces. Anybody want to try to deal, for example, with the nightmare of maintaining SEC compliance for equity traders working from home?

    14
  5. gVOR08 says:

    The link goes to something about college football, so all I know about Joe Mullins is James’ statement that he’s an executive recruiter, one of the “agents” he talks about. This does sound like a utopia for him.

    1
  6. James Joyner says:

    @Barry:

    IIRC, in the NBA the players’ union forced minimum starting salaries.

    The NBA as well. I don’t follow MLB or the NHL enough to know their current labor practices. It makes sense: If you have a salary cap, as the NBA and NFL do, then there’s only so much pie to go around. The rookies, especially the 1st round picks, had all the leverage and managed to extract absurdly high salaries, at the cost of veterans’ jobs. The owners were easily able to persuade the existing players to screw over the inbound players—who by definition weren’t yet part of the union—so they could keep more.

    But, on second and subsequent contracts, it very much works as described: the latest, biggest contract tends to be the starting point for negotiations.

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Anybody want to try to deal, for example, with the nightmare of maintaining SEC compliance for equity traders working from home?

    Yes, a very good point.

    @gVOR08: Fixed!

    2
  7. Kathy says:

    I fail to see how “working from home” translates into “independent contractor.” That has not been the practice at all.

    The best known independent contractors are Uber drivers, Amazon delivery personnel, and others in the infamous gig economy. But you also find them in other places, where management wants to avoid labor costs. Most, if not all, Ryanair pilots are employed as independent contractors (How the f**k does that work when they all fly only for Ryanair?).

    The point is few os these people work from home.

    4
  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    So, I get why employers would like to save a quarter of their labor costs. But why would workers want to lose vacation, health, and retirement benefits?

    It’s kinda simplistic to think that I’m simply going to work for you for 25% less. My pay rate as a contractor is going to have to account for health care and retirement, too.
    Also not mentioned are the intangibles. Collaboration falls off. People with less experience are less able to lean on other employees with more experience and knowledge.

    6
  9. Ed says:

    This assumes everybody has the personality and resources to be an entrepreneur, which makes no sense. Most employees want to go to a workplace they don’t have to establish and manage themselves, have coworkers, have professionals manage the business, and go home at the end of the work day. Most jobs are done in teams and most jobs depend on infrastructure. I had a good career as an engineer working for a handfull of companies. I had some coworkers who decided to strike out on their own and some of them did very well. Some did not. Some got divorced. Some sold out and retired early. Some declared bankruptcy and some of those went on to start again and succeed. I was very good at what I did, and it took all of my attention. And when I was not working I was raising two kids and maintaining a household and a marriage. No time left for running a business.

    10
  10. mattbernius says:

    I think @HarvardLaw92 is correct and this goes about three steps too far.

    However, I do expect that Mullins is correct about this being used to move towards a higher degree of contractors versus FTE. And that’s a trend that we’ve seen in the tech space for years. A high percentage of the people who work at major firms are contractors (just not necessarily independent).

    In this respect, I think its useful to look to the pattern in higher ed away from tenure track positions and to adjuncts.

    7
  11. Teve says:

    @Ed:

    This assumes everybody has the personality and resources to be an entrepreneur, which makes no sense.

    A few years ago in the business consulting arena there was the idiotic idea that everybody needs to be their own “brand”.

    One of the reasons I have difficulty finding good business books is that so many of them are fucking retarded.

    5
  12. Jen says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    It’s kinda simplistic to think that I’m simply going to work for you for 25% less. My pay rate as a contractor is going to have to account for health care and retirement, too.

    Ah, but since everyone is now a contractor, working from home, they can find people who live in lower cost of living places who have a lower base rate. Unless you have an in-demand specialty that can command a premium, rates overall will be pushed to the lower end of the scale.

    This particular dynamic has worked for me and against me. My work is fairly specialized, not every freelance writer can offer the background I have. This means that I can charge more for my specialized work. For general writing services, that hourly rate would be on the high side, so I’m not going to pick up many local, general assignments. However, because I’m in New Hampshire and much of my competition is based in NY and DC, my hourly rate for the specialized work is lower than freelancers in those two areas, which helps me.

    Your point is definitely important were this to become widespread, because if I had to add in paying for individual health care coverage, my rates would have to go up–particularly given my age. Younger freelancers would have lower rates, but not quite as much expertise. Those looking for contractor services would have to build this into their scoping criteria–is it better to go cheaper with less expertise, or more expensive with greater expertise?

    2
  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    The last job job I held was manager of the Blue Moon restaurant in Portland, ME, a little over 30 years ago. Since then I’ve lived without benefits (not that I had any in restaurant work), without schedule, structure or supervisor. I love it. I love it so much that I’m actually worried that a current project I’m working on may turn into a sort of job job with schedule, structure and even, God forbid, a supervisor.

    Roughly 90% of people want to be writers in the sense that they want to be someone who has written a book. 90% of those people in turn, don’t actually want to do the work of writing a book. And of those who genuinely do, 90% will fail. Of the tiny number who get published, 90% drop out after one or two books because they can’t stand the life.

    No place to go to to work, no one to tell you when or how, still less what, you’re in a constant battle against your own insecurity and self-destructiveness. (That last may be just me.) No health insurance, no pension plan, no way to know what you’ll earn or whether you’ll earn anything at all. I fucking love it. I am currently in my ‘office’ which is a space outside, under an umbrella and above my pool, feet propped on a fire pit, cigars and coffee at the ready, the Griffith Observatory in my line of sight and if I shift over to my right, the Hollywood sign. The opposite of a cubicle.

    Working independently is not for everyone. The thing that makes it OK is if your independent work is something that has the potential to really grow. If I were doing copy-editing, let’s say, without much prospect of that making me rich, I’d have a different, less enthusiastic view. The magic fairy dust is ambition.

    5
  14. wr says:

    I love the idea we should all look to movie stars to see how wonderful our lives could be instead of the Uber drivers and Grubhub deliverers who are completely subject to the whims of the corporation with no benefits and no power whatsoever.

    11
  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    It’s kinda simplistic to think that I’m simply going to work for you for 25% less.

    No, but I might be willing to work for 7% more than I make in salary now and be too innumerate to figure out that I’m losing ground.

    8
  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “What you people need, is a union.”

    7
  17. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: “The rookies, especially the 1st round picks, had all the leverage and managed to extract absurdly high salaries, at the cost of veterans’ jobs. ”

    I had thought that it was the other way, due to the draft. If you’re a college player and get drafted, then your choice is to accept that team’s deal or not compete professionally.

  18. Michael Cain says:

    @mattbernius:

    In this respect, I think its useful to look to the pattern in higher ed away from tenure track positions and to adjuncts.

    So, much lower pay, no benefits, no job security. I think universities are getting away with it because there’s a surfeit of people who want to be college professors. A step down, the math departments at the community colleges in my state survive because there are a bunch of bored retired engineers around willing to teach a couple of math classes for a year, maybe two. Few of the retirees last more than a year because, to be honest, teaching remedial math is not fun and the small full-time faculty keep the higher-level classes for themselves.

    3
  19. Barry says:

    @Teve: “One of the reasons I have difficulty finding good business books is that so many of them are fucking retarded.”

    Several years ago, my boss would ask me to research some business practice and write up a report. I had access to a university library, and so could pull peer-reviewed papers.

    In the end, it’s a very rare book which is not just a good paper pumped up to book length with more verbage.

    4
  20. Barry says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: “It’s kinda simplistic to think that I’m simply going to work for you for 25% less. My pay rate as a contractor is going to have to account for health care and retirement, too.”

    I don’t think that the author is drooling for that world; he’s drooling for the one in which contractors are paid their prior salaries (or less), and eat those other expenses.

    1
  21. Gustopher says:

    I work in software, building out backend services.

    Contractors get paid overtime. In an industry where carrying a pager is the rule, and which frequently has “crunch time” before arbitrary deadlines when things need to be launched by, I don’t think that’s going to fly.

    I do think that remote work will be more common, since offloading the costs of office space onto employees is going to look good on a spreadsheet. And that I will have to compete with workers living in cities with a lower cost of living, and remote work will pay less.

    More likely though, there will be hybrid remote/office jobs, where the company has desks for less than half the staff and teams rotate in and out of the office. Get the collaboration and teamwork boost, then get out of there.

  22. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gustopher:

    I think you meant to say that contractors do not get paid overtime. Otherwise, completely agree. The cost reduction incentives will be hard to ignore now that the door has been opened on a large scale.

  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Cain: And there’s that problem, too. Fortunately, I always liked teaching the remedial classes, but that was because I went into the field to be a teacher not for a side hustle/retirement gig.

    2
  24. Sleeping Dog says:

    In the early oughts, when software as a service was maturing, I took the dive and started a Rep agency offering a portfolio of internet delivered software products. The concept was modeled after manufactures reps who sell very specialized sub components to other manufacturers.

    A couple of things I quickly discovered was that the commission structure was inadequate and that most of these companies had enormous customer base turnover due to their own lousy customer service. The commission structure I could live with, but having 50-75% of the contracts not renew, made building a business impossible. I went back inside at the next good opportunity.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Sounds like a nice life 🙂 Though I suspect that you will agree, that this works for you in large part because you have a unique talent.

    3
  25. I share James’s concerns on this and just wanted to add that it would be much more tolerable if we had a type of universal healthcare that was divorced from employment.

    10
  26. James Joyner says:

    @mattbernius:

    I think its useful to look to the pattern in higher ed away from tenure track positions and to adjuncts.

    That’s exactly where my mind headed after your first paragraph.

    7
  27. James Joyner says:

    @Robert Prather: I’m honestly shocked that employers, especially retailers like Walmart and Safeway who operate on rather thin margins, haven’t been making the push from the right for universal coverage. And, for that matter, US-based multinationals are at a huge competitive disadvantage, since all the other major economies do this already.

    8
  28. @James Joyner: I agree and suspect that it’s that the Republican Party is largely controlled by ideologues and they are committed to preventing any type of universal healthcare, even if it benefits their constituents.

    You can see evidence of this in them blatantly lying about trying to kill of protections for pre-existing conditions.

    I would add one other amenity that would make this scenario better: augmented Social Security. Aside from those two things, it wouldn’t bother me much to be an independent contractor. Of course, I’m pretty well paid.

    4
  29. Gustopher says:

    @HarvardLaw92: You’re right that I didn’t mean overtime, I was thinking like a salaried man who gets paid nothing for hours past 40 and thinking of any pay for that 41st hour as overtime, compared to the unpaid overtime I am asked to put in*.

    Contractors in my industry get paid hourly, and that adds up though.

    *: my clever plan is always to goof off at work, and get less done, so when they try to push people to work longer I can just ramp up my productivity and claim to have worked more.

    2
  30. Not the IT Dept. says:

    You know how this might – and I’m stressing might – work? If you live in Canada or a country with publicly financed healthcare and a conviction that citizens are not livestock to be slaughtered at whim. But I’m not holding my breath that that’s what he meant.

    Seriously, folks, if you’ve got a universal skill and can work from home, then move to Canada and work from there. I have two Canadian in-laws who have American clients in addition to local ones and everyone’s good with it.

    5
  31. Michael Cain says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m honestly shocked that employers, especially retailers like Walmart and Safeway who operate on rather thin margins, haven’t been making the push from the right for universal coverage.

    The money to pay for it is going to come from taxes somewhere. Either on the business, which would no longer be able to evade the cost by denying benefits for a bunch of employees through things like clever manipulation of hours, or on the income of the owners. This has been a problem for getting universal coverage for a long time. Universal coverage is going to mean higher expenses (probably in the form of taxes) for businesses that don’t provide access to group health insurance.

    5
  32. SKI says:

    @Gustopher: I’m in the middle of doing exactly that this week – moving to smaller spaces with built in hoteling for the audit team who all prefer to work from home. We aren’t the only support group making that move and the organization is expecting to save millions a year in real estate costs by doing so.

    1
  33. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    It’s 70% DNA, 20% luck, 10% misanthropy.

    But my larger point is that it’s a lifestyle people think they want, but don’t in reality. Most people need a social environment, schedules, superiors, predictability. Not a knock on those people, I get that I’m the weirdo. But it does look as if the wave of the future is more and more remote work, which will upset the existing hierarchies and favor the loners. The age of the misanthrope cometh.

    9
  34. Michael Reynolds says:

    It will be one of those enjoyable ironies if big business pushes universal health insurance because their profit margin requires more people to work from home.

    Gonna play hell with commercial real estate, though.

    4
  35. Jen says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I agree with this statement:

    it’s a lifestyle people think they want, but don’t in reality

    When I first started freelancing, comments were along the lines of “oh, it must be so nice to have control of your schedule,” along with “aren’t you lonely?”

    I LOVE being alone. I’m also really good at managing my time (so I can faff about on OTB 😀 ). These are two things that most people think they can handle but when they have to, discover it’s not their cup of tea.

    4
  36. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Joyner:

    since all the other major economies do this already

    They do so to a point, and in varying degrees. People tend to lump universal health care in the rest of the world into following the Scandinavian / UK NHS model, and that largely isn’t accurate. The systems in France and Germany, for example, bear little resemblance to that model. I think that, by far, the largest factor influencing the disparity between the cost of healthcare in the US and abroad might be how much healthcare professionals are paid.

    4
  37. grumpy realist says:

    Unless you’re able to tell your contact on the other side to piss off and not bother you for a week, you’re not an independent contractor.

    5
  38. @HarvardLaw92:

    The systems in France and Germany, for example, bear little resemblance to that model.

    Their systems aren’t tied to employment, right? If the system is universal and divorced from employment, it’ll be a major improvement over what we have.

    7
  39. Sleeping Dog says:

    @James Joyner:

    In a way Walmart has already socialized the healthcare of many of their workers, they pay them so little that they end up on medicaid.

    For the workers they compete for, management, they maintain robust benefits and salaries for everyone else…

    If a decent public option existed within the ACA, you would likely see many companies drop health insurance for employees and simply provide a stipend that covers the cost of the public option. Medicare for all would be achieved via thousands of small decisions rather than through a massive bureaucratic push.

    6
  40. James Joyner says:

    @Barry:

    I had thought that it was the other way, due to the draft. If you’re a college player and get drafted, then your choice is to accept that team’s deal or not compete professionally.

    Theoretically, yes. But what was happening in reality is that the highest-paid quarterbacks in the game were kids right out of college on whom a team had spent a 1st round pick. A couple CBAs ago, that changed. Now all the salaries are “slotted,” such that there are no negotiations over salary and the only holdup is minor details like whether there’s an offset in the event of a trade.

    1
  41. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: ” I’m honestly shocked that employers, especially retailers like Walmart and Safeway who operate on rather thin margins, haven’t been making the push from the right for universal coverage. ”

    I live in Michigan, and I’m sure that the Big 3 would like such a world.

    1
  42. DrDaveT says:

    @Robert Prather:

    Their systems aren’t tied to employment, right? If the system is universal and divorced from employment, it’ll be a major improvement over what we have.

    I think that was his point — there is a huge middle ground of universal coverage approaches that do not require the Socialism!!?! of a single nationalized provider organization. Switzerland is another example.

    The idiocy is not in having multiple providers; it’s in having coverage be tied to contingent life facts.

    3
  43. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Jen:
    At different times the utility of various skills rise or fall. We’re at a point when the gregarious, open concept office with lots of toys and distractions is passé. People who work at home don’t need a Googleplex with foosball tables and coffee bars (sorry Google, Apple, etc…) we have distractions and coffee.

    If this catches on I predict we’ll see a drop in fertility. The single greatest enemy of work at home is the child.

    4
  44. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Robert Prather:

    Their systems aren’t tied to employment, right? If the system is universal and divorced from employment, it’ll be a major improvement over what we have.

    Germany I’m not familiar enough with to speak about it. The best answer there for France is: sort of. The national system covers most people at 70% of the fee rates set by Assurance Maladie, for which they pay a percentage of their income (typically 5.25%) as a tax. Patients in theory pay the physician upfront, and wait to be reimbursed. In practice, providers usually bill and the patient pays them after receiving the reimbursement (sent directly to the patient by the government, usually takes about five business days to show up in the bank account.) Under the national system, the 30% remainder, as well as any amount charged by providers in excess of the Assurance Maladie fee (providers in large cities, especially Paris, routinely charge well in excess of these fee rates), falls on the patient to cover out of pocket.

    This is where the employers come in. Everybody in France also has access to subsidiary insurance plans (gap coverage) provided by private insurers called mutuelles, which worst case they can pay for out of pocket, that makes up most or all of the gap (varies between specific plans) between the actual charges and what Assurance Maladie pays. For workers, they all have to have access to a specific mutuelle plan where their employer pays at least 50% of the cost of coverage. These mutuelles also reimburse directly to the patient, although this can sometimes be slower than the state payments.

    I’d call it a hybrid system. Best US corollary might be Medicare and Medicare gap for all, although I wouldn’t call it a direct comparison.

    2
  45. Michael Cain says:

    At least as I understand it, one of the bigger differences between the US system and the other OECD systems is that they don’t find themselves forced to change all of their health care providers every time they have a life change that requires them to change financing arrangements (eg, in some countries if they lose their employment the government picks up the share that an employer normally would). One of the radical changes that would happen in the US with single payer is that providers would have no choice but to accept the insurance. You could move from one job to another, or retire, or be on whatever coverage was provided to the unemployed, and keep your doctors.

    A couple of years ago my wife and I had to go from an employer plan to an exchange plan and then to Medicare. (All in one year; it seemed like all I did that year was futz with medical insurance.) It was not possible to keep all of the doctors that we had seen for years across the transitions: there were no exchange plans they all accepted, nor Medicare Advantage plans that they all accepted (none of them would take traditional Medicare). We made the decision to dump the existing doctors and choose a whole new set in order to have continuity going forward.

    1
  46. Gustopher says:

    If it wasn’t for health insurance, I wouldn’t be working where I am now (and, by now, I mean right now as I type this, stealing time from my employer).

    And that is part of why we aren’t going to have a good national healthcare system anytime soon. Employers either don’t want to pay for it, or don’t want their employees to have the freedom to say “peace out.”

    2
  47. EddieInCA says:

    I’m actually a hybrid of sorts. I haven’t had a “corporate 9-5” since 1987 when I left ABC Television. Since then, I’ve worked exclusively freelance, first as a PA, then non-DGA Assistant director, then as a freelance reader of scripts, and finally as a production supervisor, and then producer. In all that time, I’ve not regretted it. Even the years where I only had $25K for the year. BUT… It’s not truly freelance in that you’re always working for a much larger company; I’m just not a ‘real’ employee. I’ve worked for Comcast, Warner Bros, Universal, Sony, FoxTV Studios, Fox21, The Weinstein Co, HBO, Showtime, Miramax, Paramount, and too many others to list.

    But, like Reynolds, I’ve always loved that freedom. I didn’t have the creative skills to write like wr or Reynolds, but was able to find a niche in that world in which I’m very good. I can work when I want, for the most part, and, in the last two decades have gotten to choose where I work. Right now, I’m getting paid to work in Park City, Utah. Let me tell you, it doesn’t suck.

    But… I feel for gig workers. I’ve been able to do what I do because my industry has a very good Pension, Health and Welfare plan, because of the unions. I couldn’t do this without that safety net. I can work freelance, for multiple companies, yet Motion Picture Health insurance allows me always have coverage and let’s me build towards a pension. So I have the benefits of being employed by a big company (actually, a series of big companies), while leading, for all intents and purposes, a freelance lifestyle.

    And, like MR and Jen have stated above. It’s not for everyone. I’m often called to drop everything at a moment’s notice, and fly immediately to a city I don’t know, to a production with a crew I don’t know, to fix a problem big enough that they fly me, the outsider, in to fix. The pressure and expectations are intense. But I love it. I love that no two days are alike. But if I had kids, or a wife who wasn’t comfortable alone for great stretches of time, or had an elderly relative I had to take care, I couldn’t do it. So I know how lucky I am in that regard.

    Like other’s have said, I believe most people like structure and repetition – for the most part. They want to do their part, get paid, and go home to their actual life. There is nothing wrong with that except our society has made it. hard for people to actually make a living doing that.

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  48. mattbernius says:

    @Michael Cain:

    So, much lower pay, no benefits, no job security. I think universities are getting away with it because there’s a surfeit of people who want to be college professors.

    I have some bad news to share about the tech industry.

    And honestly, an increasing number of industries as we move towards an economic downturn with high unemployment.

    2
  49. @HarvardLaw92: If they took existing Medicare and extended it to everyone, even that would be an improvement. Use it to set a baseline for care and allow people to buy supplemental coverage, like they can now.

    Thanks for the response.

    2
  50. de stijl says:

    I once got a call from a recruitment firm.

    Met up with him for lunch just to gauge the market.

    He was a collegiate ex-wrestler. Locally, semi-famous. He had cauliflower ears.

    I try really hard to be totally non-lookist, but that is a stretch.

    I declined, respectfully.

    Less than a year later, me and some buds formed our own crew.

  51. de stijl says:

    I was early on the bandwagon.

    Welcome aboard, James!

    The future does suck.

    One thing that would help immensely is not tying health insurance to employment.

    Many people stick at a job because of that.

    Universal healthcare will broaden the economy and the amount of entrepreneurial risk takers. When I went independent, health care insurance was the biggest overhead expense. A very limiting factor.

    2
  52. Kathy says:

    What amount of sacrifice of wages and benefits is necessary before the wealthy start to trickle down good fortune on us?

    2
  53. de stijl says:

    James, glad you are coming around. But I understood this decades ago. This is not new.

    Still, glad that you comprehend it now.

    This has been an ongoing issue you were unaware of for decades.

    You have had a remarkable journey. I congratulate you. You have been honest. You are true to your principles. It has been fascinating and heartening to watch.

    Be well!

  54. Barry says:

    @Kathy: “What amount of sacrifice of wages and benefits is necessary before the wealthy start to trickle down good fortune on us?”

    Infinity to the infinite power.

    1
  55. An Interested Party says:

    I think that, by far, the largest factor influencing the disparity between the cost of healthcare in the US and abroad might be how much healthcare professionals are paid.

    This is the nub of a lot of social/economic issues in this country…to be a more equitable, fairer country for all of our citizens, will some people (like healthcare professionals) have to make less money and/or be taxed more than they are currently…

    But… I feel for gig workers. I’ve been able to do what I do because my industry has a very good Pension, Health and Welfare plan, because of the unions.

    Another huge part of the social/economic issues in this country and something that the pandemic has really exposed–how many people have really shitty jobs simply because they aren’t unionized and can’t collectively bargain for their rights…

    3
  56. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Robert Prather:I was in the grocery business for 15 years, on the wholesale end, early in my career. From what I recall, the objection to going to national healthcare was partly ideological, but it was also based on uncertainty about how cost structures would evolve. The devil you know vis a vis the devil you don’t, if you will.

    1
  57. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’m inclined to give DNA a smaller share and luck a larger share because most creative endeavors are situations populated by the survivors–the people who wanted whatever “it” is bad enough and hung in longer.

    For me, the obstacle–beyond the lack of creativity for fiction (many people have told me that I should have considered writing as an essayist or educator)–was work ethic. I’ve never wanted to be “my own boss” because I could see early on that I would be an a$$hole to work for and didn’t want to put in the hours when I could earn enough other ways. I don’t know how work ethic and DNA intersect. I suspect the intersection is pretty oblique.

    @Kathy: I don’t know; how far down does the Marianas Trench go?

    1
  58. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I don’t know; how far down does the Marianas Trench go?

    About 11 kilometers.

    The problem is most vehicles will be crushed before they reach the bottom.

    1
  59. de stijl says:

    @Kathy:

    You are so a nerd. Love it.

  60. James Joyner says:

    @de stijl: While I opposed the 1993 Clinton plan and ObamaCare for a variety of reasons, I supported universal coverage and separating healthcare from employment as long as I can remember—certainly going back to my College Republican days. As I’ve noted many times, growing up in the military system where everyone from private to general and their family got the same coverage (that was in the days of base hospitals, with Tricare a backup) it just seemed obvious.

    I’ve never had a job without vacation days, sick leave, and either a pension plan or some sort of matching for retirement savings. I started an IRA as a brand new second lieutenant in 1988. So, I always looked at those things as “normal.” (Indeed, my dad was an Army NCO when I was growing up and all those things were standard. He drew a pension from his retirement in 1983 to his death in 2010 and should have lived another decade.)

    I understand why businesses want to shed these expenses. Hell, even the military recently restructured its retirement system because pensions and healthcare are eating up a huge chunk of the budget. I tend to think we should take most of these on as a society rather than making them a condition of being in business.

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  61. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Blue moon

    You saw me standing alone