Insurance Premiums for Smokers and Obese Employees
Smoking has been a major problem in United States. In fact, the costs are high in regards to annual medical expenditure, loss in productivity, and lives lost. That is the reason why many people support the initiative of charging higher insurance premiums for smokers and obese employees. Charging higher premiums is in line with pieces of legislation that President Obama signed allowing employers to charge higher insurance premium rates to smokers and obese. Today, many companies have implemented the act by making smokers and obese individuals to pay more for their insurance packages. Smokers and obese people are at high risk of contracting lifestyle-related illnesses. Both smokers and obese can improve their health to prevent suffering from such diseases. It is certain that a smoker or obese person will contract a lifestyle-related illness that they could have avoided by doing or not doing something at their power. Therefore, it’s ethical to charge higher premiums for smokers and obese employees.
Charging higher insurance premiums to smokers and obese employees is the solution to the problem that America is facing. The country is characterized by high medical expenditure and lost productivity when employees die or fail to work as required. The solution is supported by ethical frameworks and school of thoughts. Charging smokers and obese employees higher insurance premiums is noble and necessary. Putting high premiums will challenge them to live a healthy lifestyle. For instance, smokers will consider quitting and avoid paying high insurance costs. Quitting smoking improves public health and reduces the billion dollars incurred in treating smoking-related illnesses. Imposing high insurance for obese people and smokers is a punitive strategy that makes people to bear the price for their bad behaviors and choices (Resnik, 2013).
Based on utilitarian school of thought, charging them will definitely encourage them to stop smoking and live healthy lives. This is geared towards achievement of a common good as it will greatly improve public health and reduce medical cost associated with smoking and obesity. Experts have also supported this solution because their studies have highlighted that monetary incentives can possibly discourage people from smoking (Schmidt, 2008).Therefore, anchored on this argument, paying higher premiums will be a powerful tool that may financially motivate employees to stop smoking and avoid sedentary lifestyle.
The solution can be distinguished from others in two ways. First, it will be successful based on the principle of beneficence where discouraging unhealthy behaviors will reduce societal and individual suffering, prevent exclusion and promote autonomy. Therefore, charging higher premiums may discourage employees from smoking and divert all their attention and resources towards improving productivity and achievement of life goals. These people will realize that they can possibly enjoy benefits offered at workplaces and society without having to suffer by paying more than their colleagues. However, other people claim that it is unfair to charge more. The principle of beneficence support the solution because as much as they pay more compared to others, they actually consume more in terms of medical costs. That is, they often become sick and it takes much more to give them the kind of care they require. People can decide how they want to live their lives, but it must be accompanied by consequences.
In other words, the society cannot suffer because of advocating for fairness in terms of insurance payment while smokers and obese involve themselves in risky behaviors that fundamentally jeopardize their wellbeing and of others. Second, charging smokers and obese person more is anchored on social contract. People have responsibilities that they fulfill in the society; they must make meaningful contributions to the requirement of the environment. Therefore, if they fail to act as per the guidelines then they should be made to suffer by paying more insurance packages. They decide how they want to live and so do the environmental crusaders and medical health system and stakeholders. According to this school of thought, it is fair and just to subject smokers and obese to same treatment they are putting others. Apart from reducing productivity, smokers and obese individual are a burden to other healthy members in society.
The solution actually works because victims will realize that their lifestyles are actually harming them by making them forego other important life activities. For instance, they will have to forego dental or eye care as they have to spend more of insurance packages. Studies have revealed that if people would not smoke, eat unhealthy diet and spend less on insurance premiums, medical plans would cost less and people would be able to afford (Schmidt, 2008). For the record, financial burden should always remind people of the roles they play and responsibilities they bear. However, the plan should be harmonized to some extent because suffering members of the population may feel stigmatized when they are still expected to pay more on insurance policies. Further, it may also harm dependants of the victims. Therefore, the solution must be effectively operationalized to take many arising issues into consideration.
Material and resources needed to make the plan succeed may include manpower, counselors, gym, physical activity schedules and behavioral plan of action. The solution may be implemented in series of four steps. First is imposing the regulation on people who have adamantly refused to change their lifestyles. This step will help in highlighting to members that imposing higher insurance premiums is a social choice and not predetermined. It instills the logic that choices have consequences. The problem solution must also demonstrate good faith. Second, victims should then be given opportunities to fulfill their obligations to the benefit of companies and society. This allows them to make choose either to stop smoking, drinking or overweight for a common good of the people around. However, they may find it difficult to address all the issues at once. As a result, they should be allowed to choose the one that they want to address first and demonstrate sympathy and solidarity towards achievement of the goal. Third, set the minimum limits to gauge the range of behaviors that are considered unhealthy. Smokers and obese individuals should be advised to change behaviors likely to promote smoking or overweight such as peer pressure and reckless sexual relationships among others. Fourth, implement the planned solution if they fail to adhere to the above three steps.
The deliverable for the solution includes; improved productivity, minimized deaths and reduced medical expenditures. The solution will ensure that people become responsible and divert their efforts towards a common good.
The chart below depicts the cost benefit analysis of the difference in incurred medical expenditure overtime when successful prevention through the solution convert smokers and obese into health population.
Resnik, D.B. (2013). Charging smokers higher health insurance rates: Is it ethical? The Hastings
Center. Retrieved from, https://www.thehastingscenter.org/charging-smokers-higherhealth-insurance-rates-is-it-ethical/. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
Schmidt, H. (2008). Bonuses as incentives and rewards for health responsibility: A good thing?
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 33(3), 198–220. doi:10.1093/jmp/jhn007.