If you want to understand the jobless recovery from the Great Recession of 2008, check out your local CVS or grocery store. I’ve been staying in Jamaica Plain, Mass for Thanksgiving. In JP there are two CVS’ within about ten blocks of each other on the main drag, Centre Street. About a year ago,( I may be wrong on my timing here) when I was at the CVS you could check out at a proper check out register, of which there were several, with a person helping out. Now at one CVS’ there is only one register with one human being, and three or four computer stations where you do the checkout yourself. At the other, there are two registers and four computer stands.
What does this mean? It means that on Centre Street a number of jobs have been lost, forever. Since these stores operate from 7am to 10pm, workers are needed for two shifts. According to a worker at one of the stores, they lost two part timers and two full timers. “Every year we lose more hours. We are down to bare bones and the work doesn’t lessen,” this worker told me. Which means increased job stress and strain, which has health consequences. Lost jobs may also mean lost healthcare benefits, which means more workers dependent on federal subsidies from either Medicaid or Obamacare, or some other state or federal problem if they are eligible at all. These jobs are filled by low wage workers who will have a very difficult time finding work elsewhere. Thus, as a society, we lose revenue in taxes and out of work people don’t spend money in our consumer driven economy.
But that’s the future. We do our own checkout at the drugstore, grocery store, seek out, purchase and then assemble our own furniture from Ikea,and we are told, at least by Ikea, that this benefits all of us because of lower prices. What it really benefits is the profit margins of large corporate chains.
I used to boycott the computers at the grocery or drug store. Now it’s becoming harder and harder. This morning, when I bought my newspaper at the CVS, I was forced to use the computer checkout. The clerk who manned or womanned the lone register was on a bathroom break. Pretty soon CVS won’t even need bathrooms because there will be no staff at all, but just robots roaming the aisles. Question is, who will be their customers?
The New York Times Well blog just posted an article on physicians who refuse to take any insurance payments. The article is entitled When Doctors Stop Taking Insurance
Please look at my facebook page. I took a series of photos yesterday in the large, 1000 bed hospital in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Many Americans think that national health care systems in Europe deliver substandard care in a terrible environment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, these pictures document what can happen when money in the healthcare system is devoted to care not profit.
Soft Drink Wars Go National
by Suzanne Gordon‚ Oct. 02‚ 2012 Beyond Chron
On both coasts, and in between, the US is awash in soft drinks this election season. In Richmond, California, those who are fighting childhood obesity have put a tax soda tax measure on the November ballot. In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has continued his fight against unhealthy eating by instituting a ban on supersize soft drinks. In New York City it is now illegal to sell sweetened beverages of over 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues, coffee shops, pizza shops, delis, food trucks or street carts. The ban applies to fountain and bottled beverages and includes soda, sweetened coffee drinks and teas, juice drinks, and sports drinks.
The ballot measure, approved by the Richmond City Council, has two parts. One is a tax on soft drinks that would, hopefully, discourage consumption. The other would use the money collected from this tax to create neighborhood gardens, recreation and other youth projects that would help fight childhood obesity. Read more >>
Let Them Eat Cheesecake
By Suzanne Gordon
The other day, at the suggestion of Boston surgeon and New Yorker writer Atul Gawande, my husband and I made a lunchtime visit to The Cheesecake Factory. In his latest New Yorker article, “Big Med,’ Dr. Gawande touted the national chain restaurant as a model of the kind of standardization and quality that have been so lacking in healthcare. The Cheesecake Factory, he argues, delivers “delicious’ meals that represent just the kind of affordable, reliable product that would better fit the budgets of cost-conscious health care providers–and meet the needs of their “customers”–in the competitive new world of medicine. The chain’s highly profitable and efficient “model represents our best prospect for change” in health care, he argues.
This Rx from a well-respected and generally insightful physician who has become a leading health policy observer surprised me. Read more >>