Companies seeking to cut rising health care costs are starting to dock the pay of overweight and unhealthy workers.
Clarian Health, an Indiana hospital chain, will require workers who smoke to pay $5 out of each paycheck starting in 2009. For workers deemed obese, as much as $30 will be taken out each paycheck until they meet certain weight, cholesterol and blood pressure standards.
Clarian employees will also be required to take part in a health risk appraisal that will inform the company which employees smoke.
Such appraisals are becoming a popular tool for businesses to determine the health of their work force. The type of health benefit program Clarian is setting up could become a model for businesses in coming years, analysts say.
On the one hand, one can argue that smokers and the obese can justly be assessed higher insurance rates because they are statistically more likely to have health problems resulting in claims. But, on the other hand, the precision of the statistical basis for those extra assessments may well be doubted, and Clarian Health’s policy seems more obviously based on the biases of the community of fashion than upon actual eagled-eyed bottom-line accounting.
I would support this kind of discrimination against groups I belong to myself if it were really based on cold, hard accounting, but the inclination of businesses to set up in operation as petty governments reaching out to regulate and improve the outside-the-workplace private lives of employees on the basis of pure busybody-ism demands resistance.