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There has been, and will continue to be, a lot of discussion here and elsewhere about the state of health care in America and how health-oriented benefits should be structured at both the corporate and federal level. Everybody is trying to address the problem in different ways. Just this week, we’ve reported that the US Senate is going to try to legislate more exercise…though to say I’m dubious about the efficacy of such a program would be an understatement.

We’ve also had a story about the Scotts Miracle-Gro company, which has essentially banned smoking by all employees and has launched a major offensive to help people lose weight and get in shape. Some might use the word “offensive” in a different way to describe this program, but there it is. The Scotts company seems to be operating on the same premise as Safeway – that one of the ways to reduce health care costs is to have a healthier workforce. Like it or not, it makes a certain amount of sense.

Let’s remember that Wal-Mart got itself into some public relations hot water last year when it was revealed that there was an internal memo that essentially said the same thing – that the company should be hiring mostly healthy people as a way of reducing health care costs.

I know that in some ways it is politically incorrect, or even insensitive, but I think this is a question that companies need to ask themselves. Can they afford to hire people who are major health risks? Can they put the future of their companies into the hands of people who behave in a way that could be considered irresponsible?

To be honest, if I were looking to hire someone tomorrow, I’d want someone who is in better shape than me, not worse. And I just couldn’t hire a smoker – I’m allergic to the smell of tobacco, and my mother died of lung cancer after having smoked for 40 years. By saying so I may be violating some anti-discrimination law, but this is the simple fact.

Not easy questions. And there are no easy answers.

But here’s a basic reality. As much as we all need to be sensitive and caring about the health of the people who work for us, we also have to care about the health of the companies for which we are responsible. Which may mean making tough and even unpopular decisions.

For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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