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Employees Paying Premium For Bad Health Habits

Is It Ethical to Make Employees Pay For Bad Health Habits?

A growing trend among employers is to charge higher health care premiums or deductibles for habits like smoking, overeating and lack of exercise. Health benefits are expensive and these penalty fees are a way for employers to offset overall insurance costs. If your employer adopts this system, you may have to undergo annual screenings for body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol and tobacco use.


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Cathy3385 Cathy3385 9 years
so in this instance would people who are anorexic also have to pay more because their life style CHOICE is very unhealthy too. Or perhaps people who grew up or live with someone who is a smoker because they're at a higher risk for getting lung canacer? I agree with MandyJoBo that unless the company is willing to pay for the costs of helping their employees change their habits (i.e. gym memberships, child care, quitting smoking supplements) they are just adding to the burden of their employees. Also have you ever been around someone who is trying to quit smoking? They're like ticking time bombs... not always the kind of attitude you want someone to bring into the office.
bizzybee bizzybee 9 years
Devil's advocate ... What about the impact of long term stress? Lately stress has been examined as one of the critical factors affecting our body's ability to handle immunity, as well as, affecting our overall health including contributing to heart disease, stroke, cancer? Do we legislate against these people too? How? And for STDs, there are people out there who contract such diseases because a partner lies to them. Do we hold them accountable for being deceived even though in every other aspect they tried to pursue a healthy lifestyle? What about workers who have to deal with toxics substances so the rest of us don't have to? Older people do require more coverage - but when they were younger they probably paid into the system thinking that they would be covered down the line. Separate aspect but don't get me started, what about health care for those who served in the armed forces? I wish I had the answer. It just seems to me that this approach is fraught with ethical land mines.
GirlC GirlC 9 years
Our group insurance offers incentives to be healthier - discount on premiums etc. I know in the individual market (having worked for an insane insurance broker) smokers and overweight people are charge more on their monthly premium.
Nitrobezene Nitrobezene 9 years
I agree with SkinnyMarie and remedios 100%. Ridiculous.
veronicaraye veronicaraye 9 years
I don't think it's fair, really?
i-am-awesomeness i-am-awesomeness 9 years
I agree with this. Why should non-smokers have their health benefits cut down to pay for the illnesses that smokers bring upon themselves? That just isn't fair. If you're going to go against every rule of healthy living in the book, then be prepared to pay. I should not have to suffer because of your bad habits.
citizenkane citizenkane 9 years
That was my last post on this, I promise :)
citizenkane citizenkane 9 years
"Isn't it discrimination to refuse to hire someone because they are sick or have health problems? I think yes. The solution - don't offer health care if you can't afford it for your employees. But you can't refuse to hire someone just because the smoke." The ADA (American Disabilites Act) doesn't name smoking as a disability. A person does not choose to have a disability. A person DOES choose to smoke. There is a distinct difference.
laurarose520 laurarose520 9 years
I'm with this. I agree that for HPB and cholesterol, genetics should be considered. I also don't think I should pay because my coworker won't put down the fries and move a little or stop smoking.
rivrchild rivrchild 9 years
From some of the comments here, it sounds like some people think they are suggesting that insurance rates would be raised for every employee across the board, thus one supposedly "healthy" person who exercises, has low blood pressure, doesn't smoke, etc. would still be paying more for someone else's mistakes. But when I read this I took it to mean that employees' rates would vary depending on these factors, the "healthier" you are the lower your rate. The thing I don't get is, how can you tell for sure whether someone exercises? And how much exercise would be enough to qualify for incentives or lower costs if that was the plan? Geohiker: "As unfair as it seems to refuse to hire sick people, or those who have obvious factors for sickness - smoking and being overweight, until some health care reform comes along to help out employers, this is going to become a bigger and more intrusive issue." - Isn't it discrimination to refuse to hire someone because they are sick or have health problems? I think yes. The solution - don't offer health care if you can't afford it for your employees. But you can't refuse to hire someone just because the smoke.
MandyJoBo MandyJoBo 9 years
Not unless the employer is willing to pay whatever it takes to turn these people's lives around. Otherwise, they aren't part of the solution, they are just making people less able to afford things that are GOOD for them, and causing more stress to make them turn to the things that are bad for them. Eventually, these people would not be able to afford insurance at all, or be too stressed and increasingly unhealthy to keep living. It must be nice for people without vices to sit in judgment of everyone else without knowing a damn thing about what a day in their life is like. Oh how I wish I were as cold and heartless to save my own stress levels and discomfort of caring about others.
Le-Luxe Le-Luxe 9 years
Eh- I agree to a certain point. If your a smoker, then yes.
geohiker geohiker 9 years
oh Hell Yes! I used to be an employer offering health insurance and the costs were astronomical! And, after our costs went up 25% every year for five years - well, that just isn't going to be viable for the long run. As unfair as it seems to refuse to hire sick people, or those who have obvious factors for sickness - smoking and being overweight, until some health care reform comes along to help out employers, this is going to become a bigger and more intrusive issue. If you think you pay a lot for your health insurance, ask your HR people how much it costs for them to pay for you; the cost may stagger you! (My business paid $1200 a month for me - and I was perfectly healthy and young.) The less the insurance is used, and the younger and healthier your staff - the lower the cost. I agree that it would be better for everyone if these kinds of financial realities did not have to enter into the workplace, but bottom line is that many businesses can not afford to fund everyone's unhealthy lives. Start bombarding your congresspeople with your views on health care reform! :)
courtney422 courtney422 9 years
It IS unethical, but why should I pay more when my health is fine and someone else pay the same while there health is very poor? It's a tough decision but I think the price should be based on the individual BUT there should be a minimum that everyone pays... obviously.
ilanac13 ilanac13 9 years
that's a hard question. see i think that everyone shouldn't be penalized for a few ppl who have worse habits than others - but it's like you can't really be critical since there may be things that you do that others would pay for. i don't know - i think that it's a discussion point - and i'm not certain on my point of view yet
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
I'm torn on this one, I can see people's pts from both sides.
bizzybee bizzybee 9 years
Here's an interesting factor to think about when trying to define and grant preference to those who engage in "good" health habits: "Led by baby boomers, loosely defined as the 78 million Americans born from 1946 to 1964, sports injuries have become the No. 2 reason for visits to a doctor's office nationwide, behind the common cold, according to a 2003 survey by National Ambulatory Medical Care." and "When the Consumer Product Safety Commission examined emergency-room visits in 1998, it discovered that sports-related injuries to baby boomers had risen by 33 percent since 1991 and amounted to $18.7 billion in medical costs." Both statements are taken from a New York Times article, "Baby Boomers Stay Active, and So Do Their Doctors," published 4-16-2006.
bizzybee bizzybee 9 years
Unethical. We are virtually serving up our right to privacy on a silver platter. Do we really want all of our lives legislated? How exactly do we define and apply "health risks?" Genetics determines a great deal of what lies in store for us - do we take it that far? Because corporations can and will extend the argument. Maybe we need to be asking why is health considered a privilege for the few here in the US?
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
freegrace, i'm 100% with you. Its a shame it has come down to this.
nycscoop nycscoop 9 years
I am definitely more in favor of incentives being offered for those that do practice healthy habits. A friend of mine works at a company that does that. It encourages healthy living without punishing those that choose not to live that way.
remedios remedios 9 years
Of all the "solutions" to the health care problem, this has got to be the worst one I've seen. Stay they hell out of my private life.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
I'm sorry - I was rushing earlier on my comment. Discounts for gym memberships and things like that for everyone. Not discounts on insurance. Why should I have to shoulder the premiums for people that are promiscuous and contract STD's? That is just as invasive and judgmental, in my opinion. And HIV treatment is extremely expensive. Oh, older people in general go to the doctor and seek expensive treatment quite a bit more often than younger people.... maybe it would be more cost-effective for us to start charging them more? Where does it stop? Let's be honest. Charging more for insurance will not stop smokers from smoking. It just increases the bottom line for the insurance companies. And if you think that will somehow translate into anything but bigger profits for insurance companies, I think we need to take another look at who we're dealing with here. Smokers and overweight people are human beings too, guys. We all make bad choices in our lives in many different ways. I can't see how anything good will come out of this growing trend to isolate them from the rest of society. We're not children anymore. Most people do not stop making bad choices because everyone starts punishing them.... they stop when we start educating and encouraging them.
meumitsuki meumitsuki 9 years
When someone else (your employer) is off setting your medical costs by providing insurance then I believe they do have the right to cut someone. If you think it is unethical, you can go without or purchase you own insurance. Having medical insurance is a perk, not a right (at least not right now, that could change). Its better to do that than to stop offering insurance at all. I have worked at 2 small companies that have had to cut insurance all together because they could not afford the costs and still stay in business.
heyxu heyxu 9 years
I don't want to pay higher premiums because there's a lot of obese Americans out there. Why should I also have to shoulder the health costs related to smoking? The way I see it, it's more of an incentive to stop smoking and exercise. Companies aren't reading these results, the insurance company are the ones that review it. At least that is how it works for my company. I don't know, maybe I'm being naive about that, but I don't feel like my privacy is being violated. Yes, it sounds better to offer discounts to those who are making healthy decisions as opposed to increasing the amount to those who are not, but it results in the same thing: people who have a healthy lifestyle are paying less than those who do not.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
Personally, I think it is unethical and, if not careful, could be taken as being discriminatory. Sometimes people with bad habits live for quite a long time. Someone that doesn't smoke or isn't overweight could go on a bender every night. Companies and governments really need to stop controlling our lives, but I digress. I'll say many bad things about my company, but they do one GOOD thing... they offer you INCENTIVES for making better lifestyle choices. They give you discounts on insurance and they have little contests for groups of coworkers that lose weight. I'm of the school of thought that you'll get so much more accomplished by rewarding good behavior than by punishing bad behavior.
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