Monday, March 05, 2007

I Like Intelligent Conversation

Scott Rodriguez is suing Scott Chemicals.

Scott fired Scott because during his employemnt drug testing, he tested positive for nicotine. Turns out that Scott has a policy that they will no longer hire/employ smokers because the costs are too high for the health insurance. And this is perfectly legal in Ohio, where Scott is headquartered.

So, I'm listening to the story on NPR this weekend and my first gut reaction is that this is a frivolous lawsuit. Scott legally set the policy not to hire smokers. Scott R. knew this and applied anyway.

But then, listening to Scott R's lawyer, I thought better about my reaction. Maybe it is a slippery slope -- if a company can fire you because you smoke, what about if you have a genetic defect or all the men in your family died early of heart disease? Smacks of Gattica.

The problem, of course, is that companies are the ones responsible for the vast majority of American's health insurance.

I've had insurance and I've been uninsured. And the former is definitely preferable. But I'm also 1) friends with the woman responsible for benefits at my company and 2) work in an industry where we closely examine the costs and profits of health insurance. I know precisely how much it costs for companies to offer these benefits and how knowing and/or avoiding those risks can affect premiums, deductibles, settlements.

And so there's this part of me that thinks, sure, employers have every right to mitigate their risks. And then there's part of me that went through Democracy School and thinks that creating an even more uneven playing field -- for corporations (or the insurance industry) v. the little guy -- is really a bad idea.

So, I'm not exactly sure what the solution is. But I don't think it's clearcut or simple.

And, in lookng into this, I found a very interesting blog. I don't agree with the majority of posts on the site. But what I really like is that the comments, both in support of and against the original posting, were intelligent, articulate and - get this! - courteous. No flame wars here. So, without further ado: Reason Hit and Run.

May intelligent discourse commence.