With Obama’s recent visit to the Cleveland clinic, who will cease hiring smokers as of September 1, the Today Show is speculating that this may become a corporate health care trend.
Here’s the message from Dr Delos Cosgrove, CEO and President at the Cleveland Clinic:
While we are on the topic of smoking, I understand that there are differences of opinion about our recently announced policy to stop hiring smokers as of September 1st. Many people have told me that they totally agree with the idea. I have also seen and heard comments that what we are doing is discriminatory….Some have questioned the wisdom of our new hiring policy….
But we are not the first organization to implement such a policy.The World Health Organization, American Cancer Society and more than 6,000 companies across the country have adopted similar policies in an effort to promote a healthy workplace. It’s a growing trend; one that will likely keep gaining momentum. … Some also have claimed that our new policy is not really about health, but about saving money….
First, with our new policy, any applicant who fails the nicotine screening will be referred to a free tobacco cessation program that we pay for. Those who are successful in quitting will be encouraged to reapply after 90 days.…We also are committed to taking a lead role in shifting the national focus from “sick” care to “health” care. As a true “health care” provider, we must create a culture of wellness that permeates the entire institution, from the care we provide, to our physical environment, to the food we offer, and yes, even to our employees…..Secondly, no one can deny the staggering cost smoking places on society.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that smoking costs more than $75 billion annually in direct and indirect medical costs, and that businesses lose approximately $3,400 each year for every employee who uses tobacco because of increases in health costs and decreases in productivity related to smoking breaks….
While current employees will not be tested, I encourage any employee who smokes to please consider enrolling in a tobacco-cessation class.
I think it is fair to also note that obesity and smoking do drive up healthcare costs, thereby burdening the employer who usually subsidizes the group health insurance at yourplace of employment.
A government-sponsored study recently estimated that medical spending for obesity reached $147 billion in 2008, almost doubling in the past decade. It’s not surprising. About 32 percent of American adults are obese, a condition linked to diabetes, heart disease, even cancer. As the story above illustrates, obesity can also do a number on your bones and joints.
If you want an idea of how big $147 billion is, it’s roughly 6 percent of all health care spending in the United States.
How about smoking? Almost 21 percent of American adults are addicted to cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s more than 45 million people. The estimated health care costs pegged to smoking: $96 billion.
It’s virtually impossible to live in the United States and not be aware of the health risks associated with smoking, yet the addictive habit continues – with tragic consequences for smokers and an immense burden on the health care system.
If this trend continues, then the conversation between employer and employee could look like this:
Employer to potential employee: “If you smoke or are overweight, then you cost me money and I cannot hire you. If I hire you then you will go into a smoking cessation program (or weight loss program) I invest in your health-you invest in my bottom line.”
Do you think this is fair? Why or Why not?
My position? I think it can easily become discriminatory without certain laws in place as this could become a slippery slope to discriminate against every condition under the sun that costs the employer more money. And, according to the Kaiser family Foundation:
Women… have more complex health needs than men. In addition to pregnancy and related reproductive health needs, women also have a higher incidence of chronic illness for which they need ongoing medical treatment (38 percent of women versus 30 percent of men). Women are also at a much greater risk for maladies such as osteoporosis and autoimmune diseases like lupus, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis—all of which require ongoing treatment.
In addition, women tend to live longer and therefore use more health care services throughout their lives. Women have also been shown to be the major decision-makers on health issues for their family, thus making their access to all facets of the health care system essential.
Tell me what you think in the comments area.