Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cheeseburger? That’ll be $25 a month please

I was watching the news Tuesday morning while stretching out and a story particularly caught my eye. Check it out here. Since I know that only 10% of you will actually go to that link, let me summarize for you: North Carolina is joining Alabama in charging it’s obese and smoker employees more for health insurance. $25 per month more in most cases. Ouch.

The thinking here is, of course, that both smoking and carrying a few extra lbs is a sure fire way to live an unhealthy life. Think of it as playing with fire. Sure, if you play with matches (cheeseburgers) most of the time you’ll be fine. However, that one time that you played with matches over by the gasoline station (deep fried Twinkies at the state fair), you are certain to get burned. Burned with 2700 calories of deliciousness!

Now, it seems like the topics of my blog are organized into one of the following: Running (and I guess biking?), things that be followed with “that’s what she said”, consultant travel, poop jokes, threats on Billy Crystal’s life, and various goings on in my life….Running and general fitness being the overall themes. So it should probably come as no surprise that I think this is generally a good idea. But, I can’t help but think that it does have a bit of a big brother feel to it. I don’t like the government in my business any more than the next guy and it seems like this would put my healthcare company squarely at the head of my dinner table. Moreover, I think that it will suffice to say that any policy like this will likely affect various socioeconomic classes more than others – and that I don’t like.

So, I am a bit torn. Unfortunately, I think that as costs rise, employers will find one way or another to pass the costs off to Joe SixPack. I wonder what Dr Gupta would say.

9 comments:

Jamoosh said...

I say tax the product, not the individual (obviously cigarettes are already heavily taxed, so what's a few more cents). By taxing the product, an individual decides if the extra cost is worth it. If enough people don't feel the extra cost is worth it, then manufacturers will create a more healthy product.

The Sean said...

Taxing the product is fine... but putting yourself at higher risk should be enough to pay higher premiums. If I wreck my car I expect to pay more for insurance... f I wreck my body I need to be held accountable again. In the end, the rest of will pay anyhow; and yet we are scared to call it socialism- which it already is! Maybe we just need to come to terms.

Adam said...

The Sean - That is a VERY good analogy. Crashing your car vs crashing your body... Interesting. I suppose that most of it is what we are used to. We have just become used to the rate increase.

Ulyana said...

Seems logical. However, does this mean that the cost of insurance will decrease for healthy employees? Probably not. Maybe future leaps in premiums will be smaller. They are just looking to deal with their budgetary constraints.

Also, is $25 a month really that much to a person??? Since we are talking about state employees with decent jobs and benefits, the answer is probably a big NO.

This is very similar to the dilemma with the overweight passengers and air travel. There are a lot of spillover costs, and skinny/normal size passengers pay for the overweight. Is that okay? Personally, I don't want to pay for my big neighbor who "spills over" into my seat. The same way I don't want to pay for people who don't take care of their health.

Although, this issue is way more complex. If the extra charge was applied across the board (not just state workers), I agree that people who'll suffer the most will come from a specific socio-economic layer. People, who in America, can only choose to eat processed foods and are uneducated. An additional financial burden on those folks will probably not yield any significant results.

OhMyLaughter said...

If only everyone enjoyed running...

that would make them not want to smoke and have a lot more flexibility in terms of what they eat. These people don't need a fee they need to be enlightened about the wonders of exercise. But I guess a fee is easier?

RunnuRMark said...

Hmmm...interesting idea for sure. Although one could jab back with "how many times do you think you're going to visit the doc and PT over the next few months with your stress fracture"? To which I would say "blah...can't be more than 1 out of 20 or 30 runners that get a stress fracture...but how many fat smokers will have heart disease? Willing to bet at least 50%."
Charge em! Might be better to go the route of taxing the products super heavily and putting every penny toward health care though.

sRod said...

I wonder if it will do anything. People will sacrifice a lot in order to indulge in their habits. I mean look how much we sacrifice to indulge in our running habits.

Barry said...

God forbid we tax the people hocking this crap. Oh wait, Jamoosh already said that. Yay!

For all of you healthy-ish runner types one thing I feel I need to point out on your car insurance analogy; You get to decide if you want to own a car.

Think about it.

Also I REALLY take issue with how our society assumes that we have "health" ALL figured out. Simply not true. If we do, then someone needs to explain to me why my 33 year old roomate can literally eat 3 double quarter pounders w/cheese or the Jack-in-the-box equivalent for about 40% of his meals ALL while sitting in front of an XBox 360 for many hours a day. He is 6'3" 180 lbs.

Meanwhile I hike fairly frequently walk fairly frequently, try to eat somewhat healthily and am 6'2" 250.
People are always inclined to assume that the fat guy is just lazy and eats horribly, and I'm calling B*LL$#!T.

If Micky Dee's has to pay higher taxes, that's the way the cookie crumbles I guess. No sympathy from THIS fat guy. They can use the money to fund healthy school food programs.

I'm all for tax breaks on carrot sellers and solar panel makers too!

Soapbox: Off.

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