Gattaca redux: Jim sends along this interesting story:
A company in Michigan is giving its employees an ultimatum: quit smoking or lose your job. Citing increased health care costs, the company claims employees who smoke are a financial risk. While Weyco is generously offering to help employees pay for a variety of quit-smoking techniques, the decision is a chilling precedent for those who depend on work-based health plans and might have lifestyles which are considered "at risk." Do you drink? You are more likely to develop liver disease. Are you African American? Based on the numbers, you are more likely to have hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Are you gay? What about AIDS? And aren't women more likely to have children than men? And isn't that an often costly medical procedure? What if you like to eat meat? Stay up late? Have any habits or lifestyle that might contribute to illness, however obliquely? We are dangerously close to a dystopian world represented by the movie Gattaca, where genetically perfected individuals are welcomed into the system and naturals, with all of their messy health problems, are on the outside, reduced to mopping floors and preparing food. I guess we had all better eat our brussel sprouts, put down the smokes and the booze, and get to bed at a reasonable hour.

Not that having health insurance necessarily is any help. Over half of all bankrupcy cases in the U.S. in 2001 were related to health care costs. And 70% of those individuals were insured. This was glibbly reported on NPR's marketplace prior to the happy sounds of "We're in the money," following a positive day on wall street.

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