Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Why Health Care Should Not be the Responsibility of Employers

Today, the public radio program “On Point” featured a discussion about an emerging trend:  employers starting to penalize employees who do not take better care of their health.  Some employers are requiring employees to fill out detailed questionnaires about their health and lifestyles, and employees who do not do so are charged fines.  Others also require employees to commit to behavior changes to enhance their health, or else they suffer penalties as well. 

First, the disclaimers:  it is not that the employer sees the private information about employees’ health -- that information is protected and private.  And, apparently employers are fully within their rights to require such things and charge penalties if they are not fulfilled.  And, finally, not all employers are doing this sort of thing (yet).

But here was my thought:  we have a system where our employers work us harder and harder, and now are also entitled to dictate how we spend our personal time and how we share our private health information, and if we refuse to comply, or if our health begins to break down under all of the increasing stress we are under, our employers can fine us!

One person interviewed did point out that the free market does not care about fairness -- it only cares about efficiency.

Here is what efficiency really means:  work your employers as hard as you can.  But, alas, they sometimes break down under the strain of increased demands!  Economic response:  pressure them to take care of themselves so that you can work them even harder, and if they break down, recoup your losses by charging extra fines!

Will it come to the point where people will start to say, “I can no longer afford to work.  The fines I have to pay exceed my income.  It is more economically advantageous for me not to have a job”?

This is one good reason why it is not a good idea to have our employers be responsible for providing health care.  The market does not care about us as people: it only cares about getting the most economic benefit from us for as little cost as possible.


  1. Ok, sorry. Yesterday, I wrote about taking a break from Facebook, in part because I needed a break from negativity. But I forgot to turn the radio off! I heard something that got my blood boiling, and posted about it here and probably now have gotten your blood boiling! Again, I apologize!

  2. Another thought: I do think it is a good idea for us to take care of our health, as much as we can. I am not opposed to positive incentive programs to try to motivate people to do so.

    But I do think we would all be much better off if we separated health care from employment. That would save employers money, and a single-payer system would also reduce the administrative costs of having to work with so many different health insurance plans, and thus would also reduce the amount we would have to pay collectively towards health care.