Google Find us on Google+

Biocapitalism and the West Virginia Wildcat Teachers Strike

Apr 16, 2018 by

Anarchist_black_cat

West Virginia’s Teachers became guinea pigs in a state sanctioned experiment to lower the cost of healthcare by directly linking teachers’ implied unhealthy choices – measured through steps, blood glucose, and waist size –  to the rising cost of healthcare.

One under examined, but critical, contributing factor to the West Virginia Teachers’ wildcat strike was a battle over healthcare – specially rising premiums coupled with enrollment in healthy living programs requiring increasingly intrusive biometric data gathering paired with punitive measures if enrollees did not meet specified targets or refused to participate.

Trouble began for West Virginia’s Teachers with the Healthy Tomorrows Program – a requirement if they wanted to enroll in the state’s healthcare. This healthy living program required participants to submit biometric information gathered at a mandated visit with a designated primary doctor. The required biometric data for submission: blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, and waist circumference. Failure to report or missing the program’s target ranges for these metrics would result in a $500 penalty.

As premiums continued to rise, West Virginia’s Teachers were hit with another shock, they would also be enrolled in the Go365 Program. Go365 required enrollees to wear Fitbits, report their steps, participate in check-ins to the program, and complete surveys which included how vigorously and often they performed sexual activity. Failure to report steps or to meet step targets would result in a $25 per month fee.

Biocapitalism and Education

The West Virginia Teacher’s strike brought to light how the deliberate linking of state power with biocapitalism has tangible dehumanizing effects.

From the separate but unequal institionalization of racism under Jim Crow to the rationing of resources under test-based accountability measures, public schools have a long history of being sites for state sanctioned experiments in social control.

Biocapitalism treats all life as a potential source of profit. Promissory value can be created by molding the next STEM ready workforce or locking kids into low wage, precarious career pathways. Financial speculation allows investors to bet on the winners and losers of the longevity and health game through private insurance rationing and discriminatory pricing. Government investment in social impact bonds opens a whole new market for speculation – an opportunity to bet on members of society too sick or broken to be covered by private insurance.

West Virginia’s Teachers became guinea pigs in a state sanctioned experiment to lower the cost of healthcare by directly linking teachers’ implied unhealthy choices – measured through steps, blood glucose, and waist size –  to the rising cost of healthcare.

One important aspect of this experiment is how it cleverly dismisses any critique of the overall healthcare system or the effect of the for-profit model on costs. Instead, the issue is framed as individual teachers making unhealthy choices as the sole driver of skyrocketing healthcare costs.

Sneaky.

-Carolyn Leith

Source: Biocapitalism and the West Virginia Wildcat Teachers Strike – Seattle Education

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

UA-24036587-1