Older Jobless Workers Face Unhealthy Bias
America’s latest economic crisis is paralyzing an entire generation.
What should be done with the estimated 2 million older job seekers who often are the victims of subtle discrimination, but have no real legal ways to defend themselves?
Sara Rix of the AARP’s Public Policy Institute said, in April 2012, that the job seekers 55 years old and above had been out of work for an average of 60 weeks; those under 55, an average 38.5 weeks.
Meanwhile there is a push in Congress to raise the Medicare age to 67, which really is a way to cut Medicare benefits.
The reality is many companies are forcing out workers in their 50s and especially in their 60s. So if the Medicare age is raised, the only option for the unemployed older worker, beginning next year, would be the health insurance exchanges, created through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
In other words, while Medicare is for the retired worker, health insurance exchanges will be the option for the older, unemployed person who is not eligible for Medicare yet.
At places where I worked, people tried staying on their jobs until they could get on Medicare. Private insurance was too expensive, even for a year or so, but Obamacare will not solve this problem.
While Obamacare has lower premium costs and a declining subsidy based on the federal poverty level that is supposed to help pay for deductibles and coinsurance, there are also higher deductibles and coinsurance costs, ranging from 20 percent to 40 percent.
Proponents for raising the Medicare age contend that people are living longer, so those on Medicare will be eating away more of the benefits. Life expectancy for Americans in 2010 was nearly 78 years. In 1965, when Medicare started, the life expectancy was just over 70 years.
True, Americans are living longer, but the fluctuations in the economy is having a stronger negative impact on older workers.
Take me for example; for 25 years, I was an award-winning journalist. In 2007, I started working for a newspaper that paid me the “outrageous” sum of $52,000 a year. I promptly had a cut in pay the next year and another cut the following year to $49,000.
So what followed? In July 2011, I was laid off. Since then, I have applied for all kinds of jobs. And oddly, every one of those on-line applications requires me to fill in what year I’ve graduated from high school or my date of birth.
Still, I was told by a staffer from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, a real joke of a state agency name, that the courts won’t even consider suits claiming age discrimination.
The bill that was proposed by the Congress, in March 2012, to amend the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and other laws to clarify appropriate standards for Federal anti discrimination and anti-retaliation claims, did not pass and is now being referred to a committee.
I have a simpler solution. If an application gives me the option of listing my race, then why can’t it be the same way for age? No one needs to know when I graduated from high school.
The age related loss of wages is another issue. According to a report published last May by the Urban Institute, median monthly earnings for reemployed workers ages 50 to 61 dropped 23 percent, compared with just 11 percent for workers ages 25 to 34.
If Congress wants to consider raising the Medicare eligibility age, let’s first restore jobs to those who are facing age discrimination, yet, on the other hand, are too young to be on Medicare.
According to the New Unemployables study by Boston College’s Sloan Center on Aging & Work and the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, 41 percent of older workers, unemployed and employed, say they have no health benefits, and 51 percent indicated holding off on medical care for themselves or their families.
Obamacare, as we know it, is not likely to be the answer even if it claims that the jobless can get “affordable” coverage with private insurance.
I’ve checked those costs. For me, a healthy nonsmoker, to buy that insurance, it would cost me $312 a month with a $1,000 deductible and 30 percent coinsurance. Or I can pay $130 a month, but have a $10,000 deductible and 30 percent coinsurance.
In other words, huge out-of-pocket costs will remain. Some will be subsidized by Obamacare, but the likelihood is that people still will forgo needed health care, due to costs.
There are steps Government can take to stop age bias and restore these idled, but key workers back to company payrolls.
Along with enforcing age discrimination laws, another option is to give companies financial incentives, grants, loans and tax credits to hire older workers.
Unemployed people could become eligible for such a program when they turn 50.
Older workers are experienced, well-trained, competent, and have the understanding of what is needed to get the job done.
Giving incentives to companies to hire older workers would be the better choice. We can’t become a country that settles on insuring the unemployed rather than finding ways for them to remain productive assets in the workforce.
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2010 expectancy rate: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/deaths_2010_release.pdf
1965 expectancy rate: http://www.data360.org/dsg.aspx?Data_Set_Group_Id=195
New Employables Study: http://www.bc.edu/research/agingandwork/archive_pubs/IB25.html