This story (warning: traumatic birth story) really put a lump in my throat and a rage in my morning. If you haven't heard, the CEO of AOL justified cutting employee benefits based on two "distressed babies" that put too much of a burden on their healthcare plan, basically. He says he was just using that as an example but that sounds to me like a big old "I'm sorry you did not listen to me correctly and now you're mad."

Ok, on the face of this - there is a lot to be said about the burdens of the cost of healthcare on companies - it's real. I am no expert - either - so I don't really understand how the health insurance company, covering what it is supposed to and what it has agreed to, has caused AOL to need to cut it out. Does the premium for all employees go up because of this? I don't get it.

The author of the article goes into much detail about what made her baby "distressed" and how there were no signs of problems during the pregnancy, so there was no chance to mitigate damage. More heartbreakingly, the author details what it felt like for her family to be ostracized - blamed - for her baby's condition, and subsequently the cut in benefits to AOL employees.

I take issue with how he reduced my daughter to a "distressed baby" who cost the company too much money. How he blamed the saving of her life for his decision to scale back employee benefits. How he exposed the most searing experience of our lives, one that my husband and I still struggle to discuss with anyone but each other, for no other purpose than an absurd justification for corporate cost-cutting.

The baby is (or seems to be) ok now, but the author writes how her birth was such an unhappy event, that she and her husband have difficulty taking any moment for granted, and not being scarred by the aura of death that overshadowed the beginning of her life. Then THIS. Because healthcare is always about numbers, and never about health or care.

It can be a struggle to set aside my lingering trauma amid the daily realities of coordinating her care to simply celebrate the fierce, beautiful girl who has completed our family.

All of which made the implication from Armstrong that the saving of her life was an extravagant option, an oversize burden on the company bottom line, feel like a cruel violation, no less brutal for the ludicrousness of his contention.


It is just such a BLATANT disregard for human life that Tim Armstrong made these comments - but he is not the only one to think this way. It's one thing to consider the bottom line, and to sadly tell your employees their benefits are being cut. But this - this is about how a couple of babies screwed the rest of the employees over. This attitude is about how no one is entitled to the healthcare with which they are compensated at work.

This is what health insurance is for. To pay for health. It's not a tax that you pay that goes nowhere visible. It is something the AOL employees are entitled to, because it is part of their salary. If AOL is being somehow held accountable for the things that the insurance agreed to cover, that seems illegal, right? Or it should be. And the callous insensitivity on the matter, displayed by the CEO, is just the way so many Americans look at healthcare.

I feel that the healthcare debate, on the conservative side, always separates the fact that healthcare is needed for humans to live - and reduces everything to dollars. It is a problem, that companies may not be able to afford benefits. But the solution has been for society, on the whole, to just decide to disregard that families need the benefits to survive - literally.


ETA: I should mention that Tim Armstrong has decided not to cut benefits after all.

ETA 2: Uhm, MyOcean just alerted me that this is the second-highest paid employee at AOL.


ETA 3: The "digital prophet" label is a fancy name for a marketing director at AOL. It's been pointed out that the article linked is very shaming about his appearance and so I want to make it clear that I didn't thoroughly figure out WTF a digital prophet is supposed to be - and that I don't want anyone to think this link was shared because he looks...different. Either way, the guy makes almost as much as the CEO yet sick babies aren't worth a shit.