You see, back in the days of the Great Depression and World War II, budding socialist President Roosevelt instituted wage and price controls. If companies wanted to attract the best employees, they couldn't just offer more money, so they had to get creative. They could offer non-financial perks, and health insurance was one such perk. Shipbuilder Henry Kaiser was a pioneer in this field, and he's not known for shipbuilding today.
Eventually, it became standard for employers to offer some form of health insurance. Laws were passed, mandating certain requirements for employers who provide health insurance to employees.
And today, many people agree the system is broken. I won't go that far, but it's certainly not ideal.
Why, in this day and age, should employers be the source of health insurance? Because it's expensive, and we need it? Gas, housing, and food are expensive, too, and I need each of them more immediately than I need health insurance, but I don't expect my employer to provide me with any of them. In fact, it would seem silly to expect my employer to provide any of those. But health insurance? That's almost a requirement.
It's not surprising, then, with our health care industry operated the way it is (with entirely too much government intrusion, I might add), that prices are out of control. What's the "solution"?
To some, it's a single payer (government) system, like the failing systems of the UK or Canada. Of course, government intervention in WWII got us into this predicament in the first place! Why would we expect government to be able to solve this?
It's not politically feasible for companies to stop providing health insurance for employees--it's seen almost as an entitlement. So what can companies do to lower costs?
They might try to force you to be healthy.
Some people, however, bristle at what they perceive as having lifestyle choices dictated by an employer.
This May, for example, the University of Massachusetts Medical School banned all tobacco use from their campus and hospital, including parking lots. If an employee is caught smoking, they risk being fired.
"They won't even allow people to smoke in their cars," says James LeBlanc, 45, an employee at the university and himself an ex-smoker who kicked the habit prior to the ban. "We all know smoking is bad for you, but last time I checked it was still legal in this country."
Some companies forbid their employees to light up at all -- even at home. There are at least 20 states that allow for this type of work policy, including Ohio, where the state's second-largest employer, the Cleveland Clinic, stopped hiring smokers in September.
Smokers aren't (yet) a protected class like women, minorities, or homosexuals, so perhaps companies are free to discriminate against them all they want. They'd have much less of a leg to stand on, though, if they weren't footing the bill for health insurance.
I call for a wall of separation between employer and health insurance. And a libertarian philosophy that doesn't have one group of grown adults telling another group of grown adults what they can and can't do on their own time.