Starbucks CEO Brought Healthcare to Minimum Wage Employees and Now Asks for Your Voice to be Heard

Starbuck's founder and CEO Howard Schultz has always been an innovator.  I read his first book called Pour Your Heart Into It:  How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time and then decided I would be an advocate for health insurance for senior caregivers.  Many senior home care agencies do not provide health insurance benefits for caregivers.

This seems rather astonishing, right?  The caregiver providing senior caregiving does not receive health insurance for their own care needs.  But the reason is actually justified, to an extent, because of the way the current health care system works in the U.S.A.  Some senior home care agencies simply cannot find a health insurance plan to provide benefits for them as a small business.  Most people who have always worked for large corporations and always had health insurance as a company benefit don't realize that health insurance plans do not want to provide benefits for part-time workers and that they require 75% of the employees to participate in order to provide a health insurance plan.  Large companies will have employees who are young and single as well as older workers and will be able to more easily spread out the risk as well as garner enough health plan participation as the majority of their employees are full-time.

Senior care presents unique challenges for health insurance benefits.  Most senior caregivers are women.  Many work part-time.  This makes them a class of employees which is considered to be high-risk by health insurance companies because women of child-bearing age cost more to insure and because health insurance companies don't like the additional costs of paperwork for insuring part-time workers, who usually are shorter term employees, in company group health plans.  In addition, if a woman is already opting-in on her husband's health insurance plan, she won't want to participate in her senior care company's health insurance plan which makes it more difficult for the senior care company to reach the 75% employee participation rate requirement.

While some people are complaining about the current health care legislation that was passed, it is important to remember that it is very difficult to find affordable group health insurance plans for small businesses, to qualify for a group health insurance plan as a small business and it is also tough for individuals to be insured if they have pre-existing conditions.

This is why change in the current health care benefits are needed and while the current legislation is far from perfect, it is a start in the right direction.  Having health insurance exchanges is cool because that does bring competition to the mix and will result in preventive care.  Senior caregivers and medical doctors will tell you that many of their senior clients would not be in the poor health conditions they are in if they ate properly and exercised. Right now their is no incentive for preventive health care.  And having access to health insurance for all is also much needed and very much welcomed because many who want health insurance simply don't have access to it right now, including some senior caregivers.

Now back to Howard Schultz, Starbuck's CEO.  When I owned a senior home care agency, after reading his book and learning that his family struggled with poverty as he grew up, simply because his Dad did not have health insurance benefits through an employer, I very much wanted to be able to provide health insurance for my senior home care agency's caregivers.  Howard Schultz made it his mission to make sure all Starbuck's employees had health insurance and I figured if he could find a way to do it, so could I.  Even though the Starbuck's employee pay was only around $8.00 and change for coffee baristas, when Starbuck's started out, he still made sure they received health insurance benefits.  Caregivers were paid more than this and there had to be a way to find a health insurance plan for the company.

I now realize how huge it was for Starbucks to offer health insurance as a benefit to all employees after finding out how difficult it is to find group health insurance for a small business with high-turnover in employees (seniors will get better or die and no longer need care so high turnover is a given and as high as 50% or more for the senior care industry) and with part-time employees.  I finally found a health insurance company that insured lots of restaurants and was experienced with part-timers and high turnover and basically would not audit the senior care agency for 75% participation rate in order for the senior care agency to qualify for the plan.  Opting-in for health insurance then became a benefit for Chicagoland Caregiver's caregiver employees.  But we were a rare senior care company in offering health insurance to caregivers.  Now I knew why.

Senior caregivers should have health insurance.  The job is demanding both physically and emotionally and there is also a great benefit in preventive health care.  Companies with health insurance can often receive discounted rates if they provide exercise programs, encourage walking on lunch breaks and provide educational clinics about healthy diets and exercises.  This makes life better for everyone.

A geriatric medical doctor once told me that I would be shocked if I knew how many seniors do not have health insurance until they retire and go onto Medicare or Medicaid.  He said imagine the health savings we would experience in Medicare and Medicaid if seniors would have had proper medical care their entire lives. 

Starbucks has stayed the course with providing health insurance, even when major shareholders complained about the costs.

We seem to forget that anyone can walk into the emergency room at a hospital and be treated, even if they can't pay for the care.  Everyone who has health insurance, who in the U.S.A. is mostly those individuals who are insured through their companies, is paying for this luxury of emergency room service through higher insurance premiums and health care costs.  There has to be a better way.  And we have to wonder how many people use the emergency room bandaid simply because they have no other access to health care.

Caring for caregivers should include health insurance benefits along with worker's compensation insurance benefits and all payroll taxes which include social security and unemployment insurance.  This way the caregiver will be able to collect unemployment benefits while they are looking for a new job if the senior passes away and they also have protection with worker's compensation insurance if they are injured on the job, which does happen.  Caregiverlist advocates for quality senior care and provides information on what to look for when hiring a senior home care agency, including meeting the licensing requirements in the state.  In addition, Caregiverlist provides a 10-hour online caregiver training course for senior caregivers which arms caregivers with information on how to manage the care safely and effectively.

Howard Schultz knew that his family was unable to live above poverty because they did not have health insurance to pay for his father's health care.  Starbucks spends $300 million per year on health insurance benefits for employees.  The company believes everyone shares in the success of the company and taking good care of your employees means they will take good care of your customers.  Senior caregivers deserve to be well taken care of by their employers too.

Schultz now is asking Americans to let their voices be heard to move legislation forward that does not just include the special interests.  Only around 41% of Americans who are eligible to vote did vote in the last mid-term elections. 

No matter what side of the table you are on, Schultz is right in that it is time to let your voice be heard in order for innovation to take place.  The deficit can be changed by slashing waste (there has been $6 billion in fraud in Medicare and Medicaid alone) and by adding taxes for those who haven't been paying.

Read and learn and let your voice be heard.  Don't just listen to the sassy tweets and sound bites which often leave out the real meat of the information.  Here is one of America's wealthiest individuals, Warren Buffett, asking the government to start taxing the rich more fairly.  He shares that he paid just 17% of his taxable income while his employees paid from 33% to 41% of their taxable income.  Remembering that there are usually hard-working employees behind anyone who is truly rich, it makes sense to ask them to pitch in and pay their share of taxes so that they can keep the government running smoothly for their employees so they can keep working hard and making them rich.

Send an e-mail to your Senator or Congressman and let your voice be heard.  You can find out the e-mail addresses of Congressman and Senators nationwide in this online Congressional directory.

It is always nice to see someone with the success of Howard Schultz make a move to bring his leadership to other areas that are in need and perhaps with more voices being heard, innovation can begin to happen in the U.S. government too.  You may read about Schultz's email to Starbuck's employees here and how he is asking our elected officials to act like leaders.

As an advocate for quality senior care, Caregiverlist provides the premiere service connecting seniors and professional caregivers with the most reliable eldercare options, highest quality ratings and outstanding careers nationwide - find the daily costs of nursing homes in your area and apply for a caregiving job and share your caregiving concerns with a community of caregivers.








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Comments (2) -

  • its about time he bought health insurance for his employees... it is very difficult to find affordable group health insurance plans for small businesses,
  • Starbucks has always provided health insurance to their employees and has been voted in the top 100 best companies to work for by Fortune Magazine for the last 13 years.  Glad Howard is pushing our politicians to act like leaders.  It is time for new ideas to be brought to the table instead of the childish arguing and game playing.

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