In the movie Jerry Maguire, Dorothy Boyd (Renée Zellweger) throws in her lot with the title character, played by Tom Cruise. She quits her job to join him, but then remembers one important detail. Will she have health benefits?
Our cover story relates how employer-sponsored coverage, while not going the way of Tyrannosaurus Rex, is suffering worrisome erosion. Just look at the graph on the cover.
Watch now, because I'm about to step out on thin ice. There are possibly college courses in which the study of Jerry Maguire plays an important role. (Where were these courses when I was in school?) Recent graduates will tell me if my interpretation misses the mark. Still, I venture to say that the fact that Dorothy asks about benefits after she quits her job signals her romantic feelings for Jerry, feelings given voice during the course of a film that gave us the line: "You had me at 'hello.'"
If he hadn't had her at "hello," you can bet that she would have asked about health benefits before she decided to join his nascent company.
Only romantic love can make health benefits an afterthought. The real, in-the-trenches love — for a spouse and/or children — makes people think long and hard before deciding not to elect coverage. Still, more people are in fact deciding not to take benefits while, at the same time, more companies are deciding to offer fewer benefits, or none at all, and consequently, enrollment in health plans isn't what it could be.
"Because of the cost, because of the cost, and because of the cost," Paul Fronstin, the director of health research for the Employee Benefit Research Institute, stressed to contributing editor John Carroll, who wrote the article.
Definitely not the stuff of romantic comedy.