Jon Gruber explains the phenomenon of "job lock", which I think is not discussed nearly enough in the health care debate, maybe because it doesn't fit neatly into existing narratives (i.e. a dichotomy between what is valued by the individual health care consumer and what is valued by the free market):
..."job lock" [is] a term coined during the last round of debate over universal health coverage in the early 1990s. Job lock refers to the fact that workers are often unwilling to leave a current job that provides health insurance for another position that might not, even if they would be more productive in that other position. This is because employer-provided insurance is traditionally the only reliable form of fairly priced private insurance coverage available in the U.S. The alternative is to purchase insurance in the nongroup market, where insurance prices and availability are typically not regulated, so insurance companies can drop individuals when they become ill or charge them exorbitant prices. As a result, individuals feel "locked" into less productive jobs...
Job lock is a serious problem for our society, because one of the bedrocks of our long-term economic success is our fluid labor markets compared to other nations, like France and Germany, that make it expensive and administratively burdensome to hire new employees or to fire unproductive ones. Job lock diminishes our international advantage in this area, since other nations with universal health insurance coverage do not have this problem. In addition, individuals will be less happy and less productive in positions that they would prefer to leave but for the loss of insurance. Employers will lose, because the workers they retain through job lock are those who value insurance the most, not necessarily those who are the best long-term fit for the company.
[via Ezra Klein]Posted by eatingbark at September 25, 2009 9:43 AM