Companies charging unhealthy employees

Private companies are beginning to charge extra for employees who are unhealthy – either through a higher insurance premium or through deductions from their pay (around $5 or $10 per paycheck depending on condition). It’s a bit different than the other side of the issue I’ve talked about before, which is offering discounts for healthy employees, but the outcome is the same – those who are unhealthy end up paying more. Some employees are happy about it, and see it as an incentive to get healthy:

“I knew if I wanted to be healthier and pay less, it was up to me to do something about it,” said Morrison, who has lost 54 pounds and lowered his body mass index enough to earn refunds the past two years.

Though of course not everyone will like the idea:

Some workers and employee advocates say companies are intruding in workers’ private lives.

The National Workrights Institute says employers adopting the charges are trying to control private behavior and amassing huge amounts of personal health information.

“It’s a backdoor approach to weeding out expensive employees,” legal director Jeremy Gruber said.

First off, I wouldn’t exactly call it an intrusion on their private lives. Yes the employers need certain health information, but if you want to keep it private technically you have the choice to pay the penalties or get insurance through a different source – obviously that is not ideal to most people, but it’s a choice nonetheless. As for weeding out expensive employees, I don’t think it will do that. I think the companies are simply getting real about the fact that health care inflation is out of control, and something needs to be done about it. It makes sense for smokers or the obese to pay more in premiums, because they will likely consume more care, and their conditions are preventable. If companies don’t start to make these changes, they won’t be able to offer insurance at all because it will be too expensive.

I really don’t understand the mentality where it’s considered wrong for an unhealthy person to have to pay more. If you fail to quit smoking, you should have to pay for your COPD treatment. If you need to lose 75 pounds because you never exercise and your diet is terrible, you should have to pay for the multitude of health problems that will inevitably result from your obesity (e.g. diabetes, hypertension, etc). It just doesn’t make sense for someone who doesn’t smoke, who exercises fairly regularly, and who eats healthy, to subsidize someone else’s poor choices. I could understand the uproar if the companies were trying to charge more for someone who got cancer – I mean, the whole point of insurance is to protect yourself against certain risks, and obviously the odds of a working age person getting cancer is small (whereas the odds of a smoker getting lung cancer or COPD is really high and thus not much of an “insurable” risk).

There’s an entire article from the AP discussing the issue: “Some Companies Penalize for Health Risks

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