Let's really thank health care workers.

Let's really thank health care workers.

by Doyle Ranstrom on Apr 18, 2020

I have a friend whose daughter, a senior in high school and getting ready to go to college in the fall, is working as a CNA at a nursing home.  The young lady understands the health risk to her personally, but she wants to help their patients and feels an obligation to pick up extra shifts at the nursing home as other CNA's have quit their jobs.  She is a hero.  

Today, as we deal with the coronavirus pandemic, almost every public media show opens with a thank you to all health care workers.  This is exactly the right thing to do.  We all owe the health care community, from cleaning staff to lab techs, to nurses and nurse practitioners, to PAs to GP's, to Specialists and all the infectious disease researchers along with all those on the front lines of public health.  They have been the hero's and literally the life-savers of this crisis.

But is a simple thank you enough?  I do not think so.  So let's, as a society, put our money where our mouth is.  

I would suggest one of the three following four options be given to all health care workers mentioned above and some I may have missed.  

  1. A $10,000 taxable bonus. 
  2. Up to $25,000 tax-free relief of any student loan debt.
  3. For those who are currently attending or wish to enroll in some type of post-secondary education program which is related to health care, either college or vocational, up to $25,000 of tax-free funds for tuition along with room and board.  One non-negotiable caveat, only public institutions that are part of a state educational system would qualify.  No private institutions of any kind. 
  4. A combination of two and three.  

Can we afford to do this?  The answer is yes.  

First of all, we just spent two trillion dollars and it is likely we will spend a couple trillion more to recover from this health care and economic disaster that could have been avoided by planning and investment in public health.  The amount necessary to fund the above will be a small percentage of the total spending.  In addition, I think most of us realize Federal Revenues will have to increase and when this happens, the percentage cost of the above will decrease. 

Second, all of the above will not only reward and invest in public health workers but also be beneficial for the economy, immediately and long-term.  This money will do one of three things:

  • For those in Group One, it will increase personal spending or reduce personal debt which will lead to increased personal spending which is good for the economy.  
    • Note: Those who receive the bonus would pay taxes on it immediately.  Low-income earners would pay a low tax rate while high-income earners would pay a high tax rate.
  • For those in Group Two, eliminating student debt tax-free increases this individual's ability to spend money on other items ranging from short-term consumer goods to buying a residence.  All good for the economy.
  • For those in Group Three, they would either be able to obtain or enhance their education without incurring any debt, at least up to $25,000.  Encouraging post-secondary education and having students graduate with no debt increases their spendable income which is good for the economy.  Limiting institutions to state public institutions mean cash coming from the government stays in the public sector.

We have been discussing for several years the long term impact student loans have been having on our economy.  Student loans are now the second-highest type of debt behind mortgages and exceeding credit cards.  This is one way we can help health care workers with their student loan debt. 

We have also been discussing the importance of making post-secondary education more affordable.  We need more workers in all areas of health care and this will encourage those with an interest in health care to obtain an education in it.  My friend's daughter is exactly the type of individual we want to pursue some type of career in health care.  There thousands of students like her, let's help them financially now so they can help all of us for years to come.  

Our country has just had a very painful lesson in health care and the consequences of not funding health care.  It has been well documented the current administration's budget proposal included substantial cuts to the US Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC.  These proposed cuts were never either informed or thoughtful.  What is less well-know is there have been systematic cuts to state and local public health.  The per capita spending on public health increased from 1960 to 2008 and has declined since then.  A report cited in Modern Health stated that budget cuts led to a decline of more than 55,000 positions from 2008 through 2017.  We are now all paying for these budget cuts and it is very expensive.  

Rewarding health care workers is not only the right thing to do but also will be a cost-efficient investment for years to come.

If you do not agree with the above, seriously, what is wrong with you?  Health care workers are literally saving our country and many have paid a steep price by putting their own personal health of their families at risk.  

If you do agree, I hope you do what I am going to do.  I am going to send the link to this blog to all those running for National Offices, if they do not support this or some variation, I will vote for someone who does and encourage everyone I know to do the same.  I hope and encourage you to do the same by going to my website and sending this link to all those running for National Office.  I also hope you encourage others to do the same.

Also, I hope you send this link to health care workers you may know to let them know how much we appreciate them.