Op Ed: Healthy employees make productive workplaces

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A healthy workplace is a productive one. Now, even as unemployment rates drop across New York City, employers and employees alike still cannot afford health insurance.
Healthcare reform lingers on the national radar, but the issue is especially pertinent today in Queens, where a very large percentage of our borough’s industry is made up of small business.
The Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) estimates that two-thirds of businesses in Queens employ between one and four people and many of these employers are not able to provide health insurance to their workers. More affordable health options are an absolute necessity for small businesses to keep workers healthier and satisfied on-the-job.
Many small business owners readily recognize this necessity and understand that health and safety is vital to the success of the individuals who fuel their business. Not only does cutting costs in the short run lead to very costly problems in the future, but employers who offer health insurance and other benefits appeal more to prospective employees.
Facing an already challenging economy, business owners who can offer employee benefits have an advantageous competitive edge, attracting more highly qualified and desirable candidates. The government has a role to play in making this possible and numerous initiatives are already advancing this aim.
Several statewide health care options, updated to meet federal standards and reforms, cater to all New Yorkers. A small business in Queens can now access various private insurance options through Healthy NY, or through the state-wide Access NY online service for public plan enrollment.
Considering the economic strain already felt by small business owners, having the foresight to substantially mitigate health problems in advance, would certainly prevent future costs. Business owners who are aware of this benefit and would like to extend health insurance to their workers may find themselves able to do so more affordably.
Yet even when employers want to provide an option for health insurance, sometimes only the most minimal coverage can be obtained. Addressing this issue, the city of New York has recently launched a groundbreaking prescription drug discount program. It is one of the most progressive and inclusive health initiatives to be introduced to this city.
The program grants discounted prescription drugs to any person regardless of age, income or citizenship status. It makes possible a sound and viable option for all New Yorkers to supplement prescription drug costs, and it also buffers plans that do not cover prescription drug costs for enrollees.

As Chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Workplace Safety, I know that workers’ needs stand in direct correlation to the success of efficient and sustainable workplaces. A healthy workplace keeps workers on the job and boosts our neighborhood vitality.
As individual business ventures continue to open all around us, coloring our daily lives with various goods and services and contributing to the vibrancy of our neighborhood, they can also use our support in staying healthy.