MSN’s Money reports that although Americans spend a whopping $2.5 trillion on health care and related expenses each year, employers cover in excess of 70% of the total cost of health insurance premiums.

As the health care reform wages on employers are bypassing politicians and insurance companies and are actively searching for their own ways to cut their workers’ health care expenses. As expected, employers’ primary targets are workers themselves.

How can your own behavior influence employers’ choice in hiring you?

Jackie Ford writes:

The facts are simple: Lifestyle choices, particularly those related to eating and smoking, play a major role in the development of chronic diseases, which in turn account for some 75% of all health care spending in the United States.

For example, smokers' health care costs run about 40% higher than nonsmokers' costs. Preventable illnesses caused by smoking and obesity annually account for more than $100 billion in overall health care spending -- and some experts estimate that smoke breaks and smoking-related absences cost employers an additional $100 billion in lost productivity every year.

Is this legal?

For smokers, there is no federal law protecting you. There are more than 20 states that prohibit discrimination against smokers, but many others have no such laws.

For obese workers the issue is far more complex as morbid obesity may constitute a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and parallel state laws.

I’d rather smell failure than cigarette smoke and try to stay away from foods that will cause my heart to quit on me too early. As someone who recently lost their health insurance, I know the risk of unhealthy lifestyles all too well. 

On one end we should have our own free will to eat and smoke as we please on our off time. However, if other people’s bad habits drive up the costs of everyone else’s coverage, what’s an employer to do outside of joining me in prayer for a single-payer system?

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Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.

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