WSJ: How about coffee and gym-membership employer mandates, too?

posted at 12:10 pm on March 12, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Well, why not?  Sexual activity is as voluntary as drinking coffee and going to the gym, and at least the latter has potentially profound implications for long-term health.  While the federal government demands that employers provide free contraception and sterilization to their employees on demand, why not mandate a bunch of goods and services that have beneficial effects?  Allysia Finley offers her modest proposal in today’s Wall Street Journal in response to the immodest diktat of the Obama administration:

• Fitness club memberships. Most doctors agree that exercising is one of the best ways to prevent disease. However, gym memberships can run between $240 and $1,800 per year. Such high prices force us to choose between exercising and buying groceries. While we could walk or jog outside, many of us prefer not to. Therefore, employers should be required to pay for workers’ gym memberships. Doing so might even reduce employers’ health costs, which is why many companies already subsidize memberships. Those that don’t are limiting our freedom to exercise.

• Massages. Stress raises the risk of heart disease, obesity, depression and a host of other maladies. About one half of Americans say they’re stressed, and studies show that health costs for stressed-out workers are nearly 50% higher than those for their chilled-out counterparts. According to the Mayo Clinic, a great way to reduce stress is to get a massage. However, since few of us can afford massages, it is imperative that employers be required to cover weekly massage treatments or hire in-office masseuses. Think of the millions of new jobs this mandate will create in the therapeutic field, too.

• Yoga classes. Like exercise and massage, yoga reduces stress and can relieve back pain, osteoarthritis and even menopausal symptoms. Yoga is also one of the best exercises for pregnant women since stress raises the risk of birth defects, which in turn increase health costs. While we could practice yoga with the aid of a DVD or Web video, classes offer social benefits that enhance our psychological well-being.

• Coffee. Studies show that coffee can ward off depression, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes and sleepiness—which makes it one of the most powerful preventive treatments. Workers who drink java are also more productive and pleasant. While many offices have coffee makers, some employers—most notably those affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—continue to deny workers this essential benefit. All employers should have to provide workers with freshly brewed coffee. Oh, and workers must also be able to choose the kind of coffee regardless of the price.

Finley points out that Mormons and other sects might object to the coffee mandate as their doctrine opposes the use of caffeine.  But since caffeine has such positive implications for employee health, the government should step in and force Mormon organizations to provide free coffee, especially since we need alert drivers in the afternoon traffic crunch.  I’m sure that we can find a study showing that 98% of all Mormons have had coffee at some point in their lives, which proves that the government’s doctrine is superior to that of the Mormon church, anyway.

Actually, many employers offer most of the above, either for free or for subsidized discounts, precisely because they think the long-term benefit pays off for them.  That’s especially true of gym memberships, which get employees to exercise and lower the eventual costs associated with treatment of diabetes and obesity, but many employers provide free coffee for their staff, too.  Those choices are driven by voluntary estimations of cost-benefit analysis as well as market forces in labor.  Just as with contraception, no one wants to propose a law that bans employers or insurers from funding those choices, but oppose the government forcing employers and insurers to provide them for free, regardless of their supposed benefits.

As for yoga, well, we’re already there — at least with Medicare.  CNN reported two weeks ago that Medicare now pays for yoga, meditation, and exercise programs in order to lower costs associated with treatments for heart disease:

Once again, I have no issue with an insurer deciding that the cost-benefit ratio makes coverage for yoga and meditation a good choice, although Medicare’s government-funded status means that choice is also a public-policy issue, too. But government has no business mandating that coverage onto employers and private insurers, just as they have no business banning them from doing so.

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I think the Republicans would do well to remind all there is still someone in Chicago I believe it was who is still waiting for her mortgage to be paid and her gas tank filled.

Marcus on March 12, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Was that the part time school bus driver with a lot of kids and an $800,000 house that embarrassed the daylights out of CNN?

dogsoldier on March 12, 2012 at 1:59 PM

The cough-drop mandate youtube video by Remy is hilarious.

olesparkie on March 12, 2012 at 2:16 PM

It’s not a “gym” per’s bikes and treadmills hooked up to power the algae-processing plants. Embrace the future!

BakerAllie on March 12, 2012 at 12:53 PM

And when you can’t work the treadmill anymore…. well, Soylent Green doesn’t just make itself.

LoganSix on March 12, 2012 at 2:20 PM

agmartin on March 12, 2012 at 1:24 PM

Screw Lasik. My glasses take about 5 years off my age and make me look like an intellectual dork.
annoyinglittletwerp on March 12, 2012 at 1:50 PM

For what it’s worth, you don’t sound like an intellectual dork, here.
Wait a minute . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I can’t figure out whether I just complimented you or insulted you . . . . . . .

I’ll have to ponder that.

listens2glenn on March 12, 2012 at 2:24 PM

And when you can’t work the treadmill anymore…. well, Soylent Green doesn’t just make itself.

LoganSix on March 12, 2012 at 2:20 PM

LOL…but I’m not really sure who we’ll turn the treadmill for? The All Powerful Socialist State? Crony Fascist Corporations? Both I’m guessing.

We’re getting screwed from both sides it would seem…

Dr. ZhivBlago on March 12, 2012 at 2:25 PM

Yeah, well WSJ corporatists don’t mind Obamacare/Romneycare mandating civilians be forced to buy corporate insurance products so why should civilians care if corporations are forced to provide services to them instead?

If it’s wrong for one side to shove their crony mandates down the other sides throats then it’s a two way street. The solution isn’t to shove harder, it’s to stop shoving and end the mandates.

FloatingRock on March 12, 2012 at 2:45 PM

And when you can’t work the treadmill anymore…. well, Soylent Green doesn’t just make itself.

LoganSix on March 12, 2012 at 2:20 PM

Heh, good one! I saw that movie in the theaters when it came out…man I’m old!

I’d suggest we make soylent green out of liberals, but then it would taste like crap because they’re full of crap and it would have no redeeming nutritional qualities as liberals have absolutely no redeeming qualities!

Liberty or Death on March 12, 2012 at 2:48 PM

Hey, how about 81mg aspirin? Experts say men over 50 like the President and myself should take one every day for heart health; shouldn’t that be covered?

radjah shelduck on March 12, 2012 at 3:16 PM

How about canning this liberal crap and getting back to reality. Keep this guy another term and we’ll all just be tools for the parasitic class.

rplat on March 12, 2012 at 3:34 PM

what about [email protected] for the men!?!

screwauger on March 12, 2012 at 12:48 PM

I suppose if women get their lifestyle drug via the Fluke Effect, men should get their too.

slickwillie2001 on March 12, 2012 at 3:56 PM

The easiest point to make is that these women who demand free contraception view pregnancy as some kind of fatal disease with terrible side effects….like children.

I actually laugh out loud when I think about how it doesn’t occur to these women that they can abstain from the activities that lead to pregnancy with 100% effectiveness, and it’s free.

Pretty soon the quiet majority of women will be heard on this, and Ms. Fluke will eventually become a punch line.

goflyers on March 12, 2012 at 6:05 PM

When satire gets trumped by reality.

We have stepped through the looking-glass, my fellow Americans. I ran out of reductio ad absurdum arguments at the contraception debate.

Glenn Jericho on March 12, 2012 at 8:02 PM

Not only free gym and coffee, but free everything that is healthy, like apples, and all those ‘miracle herbs’ being touted by the Health Department and their trained doctors, all of whom have stock in them. Oh, and free whole wheat bread and natural, organic peanut butter, and free cauliflower and …umm, hold the cauliflower!

dahni on March 13, 2012 at 11:47 AM