The Boss's Fat Tax


The Washington Times reports that Clarian Health, an Indiana hospital chain, has started charging obese employees and smokers more for their health insurance coverage—$30 and $5 more, respectively, per paycheck. As in the case of companies that refuse to hire smokers (or fire them when they test positive for nicotine), I think decisions like these should be left to individual employers, who cannot force people to work for them and, by the same token, should not be forced to hire people on terms unilaterally imposed by one party. Still, I understand the complaints about increasingly nosy bosses who seek to pressure or punish workers into changing their off-the-clock behavior even when it has nothing to do with job performance. This phenomenon is another reason to rethink the tax policies that perpetuate the artificial link between employment and health insurance, just as the government's efforts to discourage risky habits that might cost taxpayers money are another reason to be leery of a state-run health care system. Given that the government can use force to get its way, while businesses have to compete with each other for employees, which sort of intrusiveness is more alarming?