Monday, August 06, 2007

The Fat Tax

Earlier, I made a Mahalo page about a viral video in which Snoop Dogg dances in Kirby's Dreamland, and yet this MSNBC article was still the craziest thing I've seen all day:

For employees at Clarian Health, feeling the burn of trying to lose weight will take on new meaning.

In late June, the Indianapolis-based hospital system announced that starting in 2009, it will fine employees $10 per paycheck if their body mass index [BMI, a ratio of height to weight that measures body fat] is over 30. If their cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose levels are too high, they'll be charged $5 for each standard they don't meet. Ditto if they smoke: Starting next year, they'll be charged another $5 in each check.

Is this some kind of sick joke? Brad at Sadly, No! makes the obvious point that this cancels out any concerns about government-run health care intruding on personal choices. Even the government won't stoop to taxing you based on your relative fatness.

But beyond that important point, this is just the grossest possible violation of an individual's privacy imaginable. (Also, didn't I read somewhere that the BMI isn't really all that accurate in many cases?)

But some employment lawyers and wellness program administrators believe Clarian's approach may not be so unusual in coming years. They see employers, already overwhelmed by rising health-care costs, getting more aggressive in mandating changes in employee behavior. Garry Mathiason, a senior partner at employment law firm Littler Mendelson, says more than 300 companies have requested its assistance on mandatory wellness initiatives since it released a study on the topic in April. "In reality, you only get a certain amount of participation with incentive and encouragement," he says. "The demand for [curtailing health-care costs] is so great that [employers] are willing to take the next step. It's tough love."

Tough love...Cut me a goddamn break. It's not often that someone mistakes "greed" for "love," but that's just what things have come to in George Bush's America. Cold-hearted corporatism = compassionate conservatism, after all.

The fines are waived for employees who can provide a doctor's note stating it's not advisable for them to try to meet the benchmark -- employees will be able to submit new notes from their doctors quarterly -- and that they are complying with the proper diet, exercise, and treatment plan.

So...if you're willing to be humiliated and debased, getting a doctor's note excusing your weight problem and, like, totally promising to work out can keep your $10 a month. Then, you have to walk to Queens and get the CEO of Clarian a slice of cheesecake.

Or, you know, you could quit, which is probably what I would do. And my subsequent months of unemployment, spent on the streets without food and shelter, would probably decrease my body mass index such that I could go back to work at Clarian and keep my entire paycheck! See how things work out if you're only willing to compromise?

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