Can my company force me to take health insurance?

by Evil HR Lady on January 2, 2012

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I just got a full-time job, and I’ve run into an issue. The only option for medical plans available are high-deductible plans, which cost about $80/month. The plans are 100% employee paid. In addition to the premium, I had to sign a paper stating that I would pay an extra $15 a month because I am a smoker. In lieu of paying $1,000/year for a benefit I will likely not use at all,(I don’t ever go to the doctor, so no insurance is no problem) I opted to make a larger contribution to my 401(K) and waived the health insurance. All of the papers I filled out had the option waive the insurance. Even the paperwork “check list” made by HR had the option to waive the coverage. When I turned it in today, I was told that it was against company policy to not take the benefit. This was never mentioned to me during my orientation and it doesn’t feel right. From what little I can find online, it appears that a company can make it mandatory to take the insurance offered.

Can you explain how companies can make you take their health insurance? Is my employer getting a kickback from the insurance company? Am I wrong in believing that the omission of this information from orientation is borderline shady? The strong push to take the position, the smoker’s premium, and being forced to pay a premium for a benefit I don’t want is starting to make me wonder what other bureaucratic nightmares are on the horizon. I don’t know a lot about communism, but when I think about communism, I think it’s something akin to this. I would rather work for peanuts than to be given the illusion of a choice.

Thank you in advance for any light you can shed on this issue!

To read the answer click here: Can my company force me to take health insurance?

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan Phillips January 2, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Wow. The end of your article…Just wow. You really are evil.

Some free help on your “I don’t like paying for people who don’t have health insurance” shtick:
– Do some research into Medicare/Medicaid and their pay scale. Who do you think is making up the difference?
– Then do some research into the “doc fix” Congress has been passing every year and figure out what’s going to happen if they don’t
– Finally see how states like MA are doing when you force everyone to buy health care. Free hint: it’s solvent because the other 49 states pay for via Federal subsidies

The person should have the option to not buy insurance. Otherwise it’s not a benefit is it?

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Evil HR Lady January 3, 2012 at 7:50 am

Why is it evil? Isn’t it more evil for someone to free ride? If you have the option to pay for yourself, I believe it is immoral to not pay for yourself.

This post had nothing to do with Medicare/Medicaid as that is not an issue.

You want my true opinion? If you can afford health insurance (and this person clearly can, since she upped her 401k contribution rather than pay for it), and you turn it down, if you get sick, it’s your problem. The hospital should be able to get cash up front before letting you roll in the door. Harsh? You betcha.

I worked for a grocery store chain that offered insurance free of charge to the employees. You had to work there 90 days and then you were eligible. We would send out the forms and so many people wouldn’t even bother to fill them out, and it didn’t cost them a dime.

I’m very compassionate about those who struggle financially, but I lack compassion for those who prefer to spend their money on things other than necessities. And while retirement savings is good, health insurance is better.

The US system stinks in many ways, but people like this are part of the problem.

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Anonymous January 2, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Wow, that CBS News site is REALLY shitty… attempted to post comments and was twarted! Finally posted it, but it doesn’t remember that I created a username (though it remembers that SOMEONE did, and so I can’t use my username because “someone else” is. Ugh!

So I comment here. To the above, most states are subsidized by federal money in all things. The reddest states are generally the most heavily subsidized, in terms of getting more federal money than their citizens pay in taxes. The blues subsidize the reds, so with all this money flying back and forth I think it’s silly to start pointing subsidy fingers.

Yes, the current system of healthcare sucks. Pretty much by every measure, except for the quality of care the rich get (which is dramatically overpaid for, since insured people tend to get all kinds of tests they don’t need), it’s awful. But the current private insurance system only works when it has healthy and unhealthy people in it. And keep in mind that there’s no government involved in the question at all: it’s a private company requiring insurance through another private company. The only reason the government gets involved at all is because the private sector fails to pay for tons of people, and that group of people tend to be poorer and less healthy than the insured. So if he doesn’t want to take the benefit, he can go work for a company that doesn’t provide it or doesn’t require it. It’s a free country.

Reply

Evil HR Lady January 3, 2012 at 7:52 am

The CBS comment system leaves much to be desired. It eats my own comment so I can’t even reply to people there!

Thanks for persevering and commenting here.

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Anonymous January 2, 2012 at 8:52 pm

1) No one is forcing you to work for this company. Please be grateful you have a job at all. Many people do not and they (and their families) are suffering. I commend you for wanting to save extra for your retirement, but even planning for retirement places you in an enviable position in the eyes of many.

2) When you get sick (you WILL get sick, and it likely will be serious because you refuse to get preventative care or stop smoking), you will go to an emergency room for help. Prior to the current financial downturn in the US, medical bills were the leading cause of individual bankruptcies. Guess what? Your home, car, and even retirement assets can be seized depending on the circumstances.

3) EHRL isn’t saying there are not instances in which the rest of us are on the hook for medical care. She’s making the point that someone reasonably able to take responsibility for their care should do so.

Medicare and Medicaid are structured quite differently. Medicare is funded only at the federal level (the “doc fix” applies only to reimbursement rates for Medicare), while Medicaid is a joint program between the federal government and the states. States administer their own programs. The “doc fix” is less about you and me paying more than it is about the federal government perpetually threatening to cut reimbursement rates, threatening the stability of practices that see high numbers of elderly patients. Patients with certain conditions (e.g., severe kidney disease) also qualify for Medicare, but the lionshare of those covered are elderly.

That said, these are programs it is highly unlikely the OP would qualify for because eligibility is tied to income guidelines commonly known as the federal poverty line (Medicaid will be a bit more generous under provisions taking effect in 2014, and states are free to be more generous now, but they will be required to comply with the heightened federal standards) – there is a big difference between having Medicare or Medicaid and refusing to purchase insurance of any kind. The OP doesn’t want to pay for care, but you can bet they would want to be treated if something went wrong (an ER would have to evaluate and stabilize the person pursuant to EMTALA).

I see the point the above commenter is trying to make, but it’s apples/oranges. Someone choosing to abstain from the health care system altogether WILL increase costs for everyone once they participate and can’t pay, whether everyone else is insured privately or through a government program or is not insured at all.

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nick January 2, 2012 at 9:55 pm

While all of the above might be all well said and true, it doesn’t answer the original question. Which was how could the employer require that he sign up for the medical benefits when he doesn’t want any. Assuming of course that he isn’t already covered under another plan like a spouses or something.

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Evil HR Lady January 3, 2012 at 7:53 am

The questioner answered that question herself–she said she looked into it and it is legal. So, that’s how it could happen.

I addressed the other issues–kickbacks, shady practice, etc.

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Kate January 3, 2012 at 2:54 am

There is no way the benefit is 100% employee paid, not at that monthly cost. As someone who works in in the industry, the average annual cost of health insurance – even a high deductible plan – is well over $6,000 per year. Morever, except in the case of mini med plans, which health care reform is doing away with in any case, no insurer will allow employers to offer coverage that is paid for entirely by the employee.

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Evil HR Lady January 3, 2012 at 7:54 am

I agree, you’re probably right about that.

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KayDay January 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm

At my company (I am the default benefits administrator, though that’s not my primary job) at least 75% of employees (or something like that, don’t remember the exact figure) must enroll in the health insurance plan. Because we are so small, if more than one person doesn’t enroll, the rates would definitely go up by a high percentage or we could be dropped as a group. I believe there would be an exception for people enrolled in another health plan.

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class factotum January 3, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Kay, when I worked for a health insurance company, we required 100% employee participation! That was a long time ago, though, when employers were more likely to pay 100% of the premium. The only time an employee could waive the insurance was if he could document that he was covered under a spouse’s plan.

Kate, I, too, questioned the $80 premium. When I had a $5,000 deductible, no RX, no maternity individual plan five years ago, I paid $183 painful, unemployed dollars a month.

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Tobi Baker January 4, 2012 at 1:22 pm

I personally wouldn’t pay much attention to the policy. Whilst it’s far from ideal I doubt that it is the precursor to further infringements on personal choice.

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Another Evil HR Director January 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Lest anyone forget, it won’t be long before everyone in the US (or, almost everyone) will be required by federal law to purchase health insurance. Remember the health care reform act? Yep, it’s coming. Unless, of course, the Supreme Court decides to strike down the individual mandate.

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Tim C January 5, 2012 at 11:09 pm

I left a comment on the CBS web page but will post it here as well. My employer now requires employees to pay a surcharge if their spouse has opportunity to take insurance elsewhere but you choose to place them on your plan. No matter how bad of coverage or expensive it is, you are charged $92 a month for the added coverage plus the up-charge for the family plan. If my wife did not work or did not get benefits, I would not be charged the additional $92.. I feell as if I am penalized for being married.

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NotaFanofInsuranceCompanies July 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm

My insurance company pays for nothing. I pay them every month for the privilege to wait for a catastrophic problem. I cant even pay the deductible and loss of income if that were to happen so even with coverage im most likely looking at having to file bankruptcy. So what the hell am I paying them for?? The system is corrupt. These guys have been bilking us for years. You are all brainwashed into believing its working. Its not! I had to laugh at that original article about Turkey and the dog bite. Your high paid medical coverage doesnt cover things like air vac, repatriation etc so you should get medical and travel insurance anyway! 100 bucks for a trip would do it all. Im sick of paying for something and getting nothing all while those insurance fat cats and the freakin politicians we elect get 100% PAID MEDICAL INSURANCE!!

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