A post from last month has elicited a bit of response and discussion, and I felt my reply warranted a new post, as it furthers the discussion significantly. I was discussing what I felt was the improper power employers are now wielding in ways that are invasive in people’s lives, citing recent news stories about companies that are firing people who smoke on or off the job. Pertinent replies said:
Ever hear of employment “at will”? You can be fired for not wearing the right color tie, let alone lighting up on your break. It’s not a gross invasion of privacy and precursor to socialized reform. It’s called a free market, buddy. Hire whoever the hell you want.[…]
You have the freedom to hire a non-smoking babysitter. You have the freedom to split rent with a non-smoking roommate. You have the freedom to hire a non-smoking employee. And, yes, you have the freedom to smoke if you want to. Nonetheless, employers and taxpayers should not have to pay for those who voluntarily self inflict the health cost burden. It is all about freedom of choice.
Okay, here’s one for you:
There are studies that suggest that religious people live happier and healthier lives. Should a company be able to refuse to hire people they deem not religious enough (or the “wrong” religion) by citing health care costs?
We may have just discovered a loophole around non-discrimination laws. Conjure up a study that says *x-race* is on average healthier that *y-race*, and then refuse to hire anyone of *y-race*. Hey, man, health care costs and all….
Regarding roomates — discrimination law doesn’t (and can’t) apply to personal relationships (“She said she won’t go out with me because she doesn’t date black people. I’m suing!”). Choosing a roommate directly affects you personally — you are directly exposing yourself to whatever the hell they do. I might refuse a roommate because I don’t like their taste in music; should an employer be able to fire you because you listen to country music in your car?
Of course, we’ve gotten far off the course here, and perhaps my initial post emphasised the wrong point: the argument I’m making is basically in this quote:
Ultimately, the problem here is not that these organizations want to save money — any business wants to do that. The problem is that health care should never have become so socialized in the first place. This gross invasion of privacy is the natural extension of ‘collective’ systems.
The point really being that, in a sense the companies do have a legitimate financial argument, but only because government interference long ago started a snowballing effect (helped along by out-of-control lawsuits and such) that has lead to health care being practically unaffordable to individuals, which in turn has transformed it into a de facto socialized system.
Is it possible to get by without company provided health benefits? Sure, it’s possible — but increasingly difficult for “Joe Average”, and a single illness can quickly lead to bankruptcy.
(I’m suddenly reminded of colleges being forced to follow all sorts of invasive Federal controls. They don’t technically have to, but avoiding doing so is so prohibitively difficult and expensive that only one in the entire country*, Hillsdale College, actually manages to avoid these controls. Though not technically a requirement, it is effectively so.)
What we truly need is to break the hold that this invasive socialized system has on our society. We are starting to see steps toward that, some coming from government (Bush’s proposed caps on malpractice lawsuits), and some coming from the populace (the growing number of doctors who, at huge personal risk, practice without malpractice insurance), but whether these are the right course, or whether they will be effective, remains to be seen.
Update 29 April 2005: The Hillsdale link has been updated, and a footnote added.
Update 5 May 2005: Further discussion in Privacy Wars III: Revenge of the Smokers on this site.
*That may not quite be true. Hillsdale claims, in the (truly excellent) article linked above, that “the colleges that do not depend heavily upon federal taxpayer funds can be counted on a few fingers.”