Tennessee state representative Mike Turner introduced legislation earlier this year which would have denied health insurance coverage to all new state employees who smoke or use other tobacco products. Turner argued that the proposal was intended to control rising health care costs for the state.
Yesterday, Turner pulled the bill, ending consideration of this proposal.
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Just the fact that a bill like this could even be considered is scary. Given the health risks associated with tobacco use, smokers are a group who probably need health care coverage the most. To deny coverage to this group makes no sense and would cause massive harm to the public's health.
The same reasoning that supports this legislation would also support denying health insurance to people who are overweight, eat poorly, do not exercise, or practice unsafe sex.
Perhaps we should only insure people who have the most healthy lifestyles. That would be a sure way to drive health care costs down. Of course, it would also result in the overwhelming majority of the population being uninsured. We'd end up paying for their health care anyway, but at least it would make them feel alienated and socially outcast.
It looks like the health care debate is going the wrong way in Tennessee. I thought we were trying to maximize the number of people with health care coverage, not minimize it.