Charging employees to smoke

April 22, 2008
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Whirlpool is struggling with its employees in Evansville as it tries to keep a lid on escalating health care costs.

The company says it has caught a few dozen of them smoking. That wouldnâ??t be a problem had the employees not signed forms saying they didnâ??t smoke, which saved them a $500 penalty on their health insurance.

Now those employeesâ?? days at the refrigerator plant are probably numbered.

Employers are reluctant to penalize smokers because it can kill morale. Clarian Health backed off on a proposed penalty after workers complained the policy was negative.

Ned Lamkin, a retired Indianapolis physician and president of the Indiana Employers Quality Health Alliance, says employers are fidgeting as they decide how much they want to intrude into workersâ?? lives.

Expect many more companies to take Whirlpoolâ??s approach, Lamkin says. Health care simply has become too expensive for companies to ignore unhealthy lifestyles.

Once employers get comfortable with penalties for smoking, theyâ??ll shift to monitoring blood pressure and other measures to improve health and ultimately cut costs.

â??Whirlpool may be kind of the crack in the nut,â?? Lamkin says. â??Once that crack gets big enough, other employers will follow suit.â??

Do you think employees should be penalized for smoking?
  • Penalized is a strong word... but employees should be held accountable for actions that can impact the finances of their employer or in some cases their co-workers.

    I coordinate benefits for a small group of less than 20 and see firsthand how personal choices, like smoking, impact healthcare costs. I believe if you smoke, you should be willing to bear additional cost that impacts the overall group. I call that RESPONSIBILITY not a penalty.
  • Back when I worked at Meijer, Our Health Care plan stated that if we didn't smoke, we didn't have to pay the $5 extra on our premiums. We had to sign a document stating if we did or didn't smoke based on our habits. I, personally, enjoy the extra 5-monthly, since the company- Meijer- doesn't pay much for their their grunt workers.
  • Well, in light of the fact that those people lied to save themselves money, though they obviously aren't worried about the money they would save by actually not buying cigarettes. I think Whirlpool was right. It would be different if they hadn't lied. They should be penalized in that case. They raise health care costs for us all, not too mention causing me extra health problems while they're at it.

    If you don't like what an employer pays you, maybe you should find a different job. At least they offer health care benefits. I worked at Sears part time for 5 years because of the insurance and was glad to have it. I started at $6 an hour. I guess you aren't counting the amount of money they spend on your health benefits.
  • These people lied; charge them the extra money. I have no problem with employers charging more for insurance for smoking, as long as they are going to charge their fat employees more for eating too much!
  • I'm sick of companies and the government thinking that they have the right to intrude on people's lives. I've never smoked but I like donuts. Are my health premiums going to go up just because I like the occasioinal glazed yeast baked good? Is my job in jeopardy because I love a Heath bar infused Blizzard thus raising my cholesterol count endangering everyones health care costs? Every time we capitualte to some idiotic rule for the common good we give up a little more of the liberty that we used to cherish. But hey, it's only a few workers at a plant that doesn't employ any of us so it's no big deal. Idiots!

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