Advertisement
Icon WebMD Expert Blogs

Health Reform 101

with Lisa Zamosky

WebMD helps readers understand their health insurance and the new health care reform law. The Affordable Care Act is bringing sweeping changes to American health care. Lisa Zamosky is here to help you navigate the health care maze and understand how these changes affect you.

Important:

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, review, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have... Expand

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, reviews, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. User-generated content areas are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD User-generated content as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Hide

Thursday, February 2, 2012

No Work for Smokers?

By Lisa Zamosky

smoking

Last November, I wrote a blog post about an NPR/ Thompson Reuters survey that asked people how they felt about employers charging smokers more for their health insurance than employees who don’t smoke. Nearly 6 out of 10 people polled said, “yes,” smokers should pay a premium for their unhealthy, and ultimately more costly, behavior.

In this week’s USA Today, a set of editorials addresses a growing phenomenon that takes this issue a step further: Refusing to hire smokers in the first place.

The Rising Cost of Health Care

More than half of all Americans currently get their health insurance through their employers, who have seen the cost of insurance premiums rise by 50% over the past decade. This has prompted businesses to search for ways to hold down healthcare costs and has given rise to wellness programs, as well as financial and other rewards for employees who commit to healthy behaviors, among other things.

As the USA Today editorials point out, adopting a policy whereby smokers are refused employment seems to be a growing trend.

Dallas, TX-based Baylor Health Care System and the Cleveland Clinic, for example, both claim that as health care organizations with missions to heal the sick and generally promote good health, supporting people who engage in a habit that leads to 450,000 deaths each year is hypocritical. Still, refusing jobs to smokers is a policy that has been adopted by employers in a number of industries, not just those in the field of health care.

One editorial takes great issue with the practice, and says the following:

“…intruding this deeply into people’s private lives raises questions that bear scrutiny. Companies can charge smokers more for health coverage or ban smoking on the job. But punishing people for using a legal product on their own time crosses a troubling line.”

Dr. Paul Terpeluk, Cleveland Clinic’s medical director of Employee Health Services, who wrote the opposing editorial, defends his organization’s stance on not hiring smokers by saying it does not make sense – particularly for a leading health care organization like his – to support a habit that leads to disease, disability and death.

Smokers as a Protected Class

Twenty-nine states in the U.S., as well as the District of Columbia have laws on the books that elevate smokers to a protected class, thereby making it illegal for employers to refuse a job to someone simply on the basis of the fact that he or she smokes. However, 21 states have no such laws, allowing employers to implement a no-smoking policy when it comes to hiring.

Fair or Foul?

In 2011 the United States spent $2.57 trillion, or 17% of the gross domestic product on healthcare. That number is expected to grow to 20% by the year 2020.

With health care costs placing an increasing burden on the economy, on businesses and on families, is it fair to penalize people who continue to engage in behavior that is well known to drive medical costs skyward? Speak up and let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo: Photodisc

Posted by: Lisa Zamosky at 12:18 pm

Comments

Leave a comment

Subscribe & Stay Informed

WebMD Daily

Get your daily dose of healthy living, diet, exercise and health news from WebMD!

Archives

WebMD Health News