Smokers and Obese to be Charged More For Healthcare

Cullen Mclane

Tim and Ronaldo both work for Wal-Mart. They both do the same work, they’ve both worked there the same length, and yet Tim is paying more for health insurance. Why is this? What makes Ronaldo so special that he gets to pay less? Well, it’s really quite simple; Ronaldo’s not an obese smoker.

Yes, that’s right, a lot of employers are going to start charging more for healthcare for those who are obese and/or smoking, and fat smokers everywhere are outraged. This could be a good idea. After all, smoking and excessive eating are unhealthy habits, and it would be in one’s best interest to drop them. It could be good for companies to give people some incentive. So, at the end of the day this is the greatest thing to happen to America; everyone goes and loses weight and quits smoking and morbid obesity and lung cancer will becomes things of the past. Everyone will live happily ever after. It’s a fantastic idea. Or is it?

Smoking and eating are activities one partakes in while off the job, unless, of course, you’re a professional smoker or food critic. Should the employer have the ability to control how its employees behave when off duty? For instance, if one is to work in a store for six hours, then it’s fair that they should get to be the management’s slave for six hours, but when they clock out, is it right for the management to still hold dominion over them?

Should employers have power over the individual’s ability to smoke or their ability to eat or how much they need to exercise? Of course, the employer doesn’t technically hold power over such aspects of the employees’ lives, as they’re giving you the option to both put down the cigarettes and hit the gym or pay a few more dollars. However, we live in a time where no one has a few more dollars, everyone’s too lazy to exercise, and smokers like smoking for some reason; so it’s clearly not a good situation.

It does make sense though. Someone who’s putting his or her health in danger on a regular basis theoretically should be paying more for insurance than the guy with the tar free lungs and the diet of all natural foods. After all, good drivers can get better deals on car insurance, should the same not apply to health insurance?

The only problem however, is that there are more health factors than simple smoking and eating. What about the guy with a genetic heart disease? He’s probably a lot more likely to have a heart attack than the average employee; should he not be paying more for healthcare as well? Unlike the fat smokers who can exercise and get a nicotine patch, the guy with the heart disease really can’t do much to change his condition. He can either get a new heart, or pay more. And who wants to get a new heart just to work some job that’s probably god-awful anyway?

And how about the employee who likes to go skydiving in his spare time? He’s a heck of a lot more likely to get a serious injury than the employee who spends his weekends at home reading The Complete Works of Charles Dickens. Should the skydiver have to pay more for health insurance? It’s the same principle. The one who’s putting his life in danger should be paying more, right? But do the people really need their employees entering their personal lives to the point where it affects their hobbies. It gives them too much power, bringing us all one step closer to a world run by the corporations. And who wants to live in a world ruled by Wal-Mart? Actually that sounds pretty good; everything would be nice and cheap. Of course, this is all completely irrelevant, since the issue is smoking and obesity. But it’s a slippery slope.

Interesting thing about employment is that it’s at will. One does not have the right to a job by default; one must agree to the terms and conditions set by the employer when they take it. So it’s very easy to say that if one doesn’t want to have to pay more for health insurance, they should either lose some weight or find a different job. That’s all well and good, but one doesn’t suddenly stop being obese overnight, nor does one suddenly quit smoking overnight. And jobs don’t exactly grow on trees. Seriously, climb a tree; THERE ARE NO JOBS UP THERE! Unless it’s a tree house building job, in which case, there are jobs up there. But the point is the economy stinks, and there’s no work. So if someone who is unemployed is presented with an opportunity, they’d have to be a complete idiot to not take it. Finding one job opportunity these days is lucky. Getting another is a miracle. The employers are in a sort of “give us power or you get screwed” position.

But at the end of the day, private businesses will be private businesses. On one hand, it is technically their right, but how far should it go? It could go far enough to lead us into a world ruled by Wal-Mart. Man; I hope so. The world would have great bargains.