Last August I wrote a blog about health care and telework. Given the recent events in the U.S. Congress I think it’s time to look again. The newly enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act gives teleworkers, particularly self-employed teleworkers, a major reduction in those 3:00 AM worry sessions. Now it is possible for many existing teleworkers, as well as many more not-yet-teleworkers, to think about expanding their options. Why?
Because the most frightening barrier against teleworkdom is now materially reduced. The threat of losing health care coverage in case you have a “preexisting condition” or aren’t an employee of a generous corporation is vanishing (although it may still take awhile before all the provisions of the act are in effect). So let’s think about some of the new options open to existing or wannabe teleworkers.
- Greater employment flexibility. You don’t need to feel that you’re stuck with your present employer just because you want to keep the health coverage. Assuming that the insurance companies actually start to compete with each other, given the mandate to expand coverage to those currently without it, it will be easier to find another employer — including yourself — with a good health plan and a policy for encouraging telework. On the other hand, if the insurance companies continue business as usual, this outcome might have to wait until the public option is forced upon the industry.
- Increased entrepreneurship. The new freedom from fear of economic disaster arising from health problems may be the final trigger for many who have been holding off their dreams. Home-based teleworking doesn’t require much in the way of capital investment; a desk, computer, printer, high speed Internet connection constitute the basics. Other fears of jumping into the unknowns of small business — lack of support services, for example — can now be assuaged by the rise of such businesses online. Even in the current queasy economic climate low overhead businesses have a distinct advantage.
- Increased job opportunities for the functionally impaired. Many employers have been reluctant to hire employees who seem to pose risks because of health problems. This can include people with mobility handicaps, those with needs for special facilities, those who need to care for the elderly, and the like. The broader availability of health care coverage at reasonable cost (as promised), as well as the greater acceptance of telework-related technologies, ease thisÂ restraint.
At present, all of these possibilities depend on the actualities deriving from the new laws. Hopefully, their implementation will be rapid and effective. But there are still many people and institutions in the U.S. who are bent on keeping matters just as they were in the last century. It is very important that they are not successful.
If you have your own hopes and experiences in light of the new law, please let us know.