Why I Favor a Public Option

As an applications developer turned recruiter, I've held front row tickets to the changes in the US jobs circus.

My severance package included outplacement services from Right Management. Right's analysis indicates that going forward from now workers can anticipate having 5-8 different careers (that's CAREERS, people!), with different jobs per person numbering in double digits.

This concept sounds unbelievable when viewed through the groovy titanium glasses of a person brought up assured that the proven path to success is hard work and long term loyalty to your employer. (Let's not even open that can of dogpoop.) As recently as 15 years ago it would be inconceivable that a highly skilled developer or project manager with bleeding edge knowledge would view 18 months as a long and stable assignment.

Yet this is where we find ourselves. These days a three month gap between assignments raises the eyebrows of only the most isolated of hiring managers. It's the way it is, and is only expected to grow.

So we have a skilled workforce whose careers are made up of a series of temporary assignments. At various times a consultant may work as an independent consultant under his own LLC, as a contractor farmed out by a staff augmentation firm, or as a corporate FTE -- with gaps between many of these assignments.

And adults, especially those with families, need health insurance whether on assignment or between.

What a hassle it is to switch insurance carriers every 18 months! There is the difference in levels of coverage and deductibles to contend with. There are conditions such as pregnancies or chronic illnesses leading the patient to want to keep his existing doctor or hospital.

A decent public option -- not necessarily as cushy as the plan enjoyed by our Federal Representatives -- could be purchased by the worker when they enter the workforce, and ported from assignment to assignment throughout the worker's career. An employer's cafeteria-style benefits plan could include an option to direct any employer contributions to the employee's public option account. And gaps between assignments would be covered at the worker's expense, without having to go through lengthy approval processes or experiencing reductions in coverage or increases in deductibles or co-pays.

If we believe the predictions that careers of future generations will be made up of a series of independent assignments with gaps between, a public option for health coverage will be incredibly beneficial for American workers.