Flying without a parachute

The San Jose City Council will soon consider a “living wage” that would increase wages for airport workers. For those with health benefits, the wage would be $12.83 an hour. For those without benefits, the wage would be $14.03 an hour.

The difference, then, between having benefits and going without is $1.20 an hour. Over the course of a year, that’s an extra $2,400 in your pocket, assuming employees work 2,000 hours. That’s $200 extra dollars a month. But that also means that a worker would have to go out and find insurance on their own.

Airport workers, the ones that push wheelchairs and check baggage, are not young. In a Google search, I find that in Dallas, the average age of an airport worker is 45, so I’m going to use that for my illustration.

It is possible to find an individual health insurance plan for a 45-year-old woman in San Jose for less than $200 a month. However, it also means

  • paying deductibles ranging from $500 to $5,000;
  • paying high co-pays for limited doctor’s visits (and for a 45-year-old with a physically taxing job, that may not be a wise choice. Not to mention the regular health needs of a 45-year-old woman.);
  • having *only* generic prescription drug coverage;
  • paying the full cost of labs and X-rays until the deductible is met;

These are bills that make your stomach ache. They’re not fun to pay, but you need to pay them because you need to stay healthy. And for a person earning about $28,060 a year, these costs represent, proportionally, an even bigger financial sacrifice. The premium alone is 9.5 percent of wages.

Of course, the big question, is whether a person $28,060 can really afford — with housing, food and gas expenses — to spend another $200 a month on a skimpy health care plan.

The answer, most likely, is no.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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