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Letter: 'Trading Benefits For Wages"

Heather R. writes:

I heard your report on the idea that money saved from expensive health plans could lead to higher wages. You said that there is lots of economic data to support money moving from wages to health plans, so economists assume the reverse would be true as well. But it sounded like there was no data to support that right now. Presumably that's because health plan costs have not dropped, making it an untested hypothesis.

I (and I suspect others like me) can supply anecdotal evidence of this, though. My husband and I are a two income couple and I have a relatively stable job at a University with good benefits, so we both have health insurance from my job. My husband has repeatedly negotiated with employers for higher wages or more paid vacation based on the fact that he would not be using their health plan. If he can do it, unions can do it. I suspect there's a big untapped data set out there in the form of two income couples like us.