From Affordable to Universal Care Because Caring is Kind and Caring for Workers is Kinder

The U.S. Department of Labor recently launched a Twitter Q & A about apprenticeship as a means to help people attain jobs. I like that our labor department is taking an active stance when it comes to re-thinking how people obtain jobs. Now, I hope the department will also consider contingent faculty working at colleges and universities as apprentices who could matriculate to full-time status. One main benefit of transitioning contingent, or adjunct faculty to full-time faculty is benefits. A full-time worker usually is guaranteed health benefits and a retirement savings plan. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a huge benefit, it is not clear that it benefits those who work less-than-half-time, and who are adjuncts. University administrators, faculty, students, and their parents, too, would do well to consider the quality of health care that is available to adjunct professors.

It is not clear to me how universities or colleges factor in the health of their contingent faculty labor pool. I know recently when I needed a doctor, I visited several only to discover that they were not included in my insurance plan. The closest doctor I was able to find who could see me was booked until the Spring, but I needed a doctor right then. If there is a doctor shortage, then I hope colleges and universities produce more doctors and medical personnel, perhaps through apprenticeship systems, at least so that there are more doctors available.

It would be great if every Urgent Care facility, public or private, would accept all forms of insurance. I wonder if those part-time, or less-than-part-time faculty giving it their all in the classroom and outside the classroom worry that their health might be at risk?

Law-makers, education administrators, and pundits could be contributing to a renaissance of caring by improving the quality of life of those who selflessly share knowledge with others. Society needs to prioritize the health of teachers.

On a personal note, preparing for two classes this Winter has been exciting because of the emphasis placed on the themes of the course. At the same time, my own body, with its will to do what it wants, reminds me of the importance of balance. Raw vocal chords, exhausted eyes, are side effects of teaching — and represent a willful commitment to learning and teaching. Reflecting on how my body feels after teaching a challenging class reminds me that health-care coverage is a quality of life issue, and for many, a matter of life and death.

The health care debate is a gendered issue. I wonder whether gender gets enough attention when it comes to healthcare, gender, and contingent labor. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau has wonderful statistics on the kinds of work women do and the pay discrepancies by job and gender. I look forward to learning more about labor and the quality of health care that women may access through their employer and through health plans that are designed to get everyone access to care. Now that we have the access, what is the quality of care, and how easy is that care to obtain? For example, is there easily obtainable access to health care at one’s school, one’s job, and/or near where one buys groceries or lives?

We should care enough to ask these questions. Caring is kind and caring for workers, even kinder.