Straight from Dothan, Alabama is a report of Alabama state employees being required to pay a $25 fee every month for health insurance if they are obese. Yes, a $300 annual premium is a lot – if you are a state employee accustomed to free health insurance. For some of the rest of the nation, it could seem like chump change for premium coverage – all depends on perspective, we think.
The Alabama obesity plan is still in the works, but it sounds like the fee will be charged to employees whose BMI exceeds 35 – note that this is five points above the threshold marked for obesity. A woman who is 5’5 with a BMI of 35 weighs about 210 pounds, while a 5’10” man with a 35 BMI weighs approximately 243pounds. Progress to a BMI below 35 results in a rescinded fee.
While reports suggest some employees are outraged at the new requirement, a recent New York Times piece on this subject shows smokers already pay a $24 monthly fee which is increasing to $25 starting in October.
We’ll put our cards on the table and say that even though we believe many people with BMIs are treated unfairly, we think this premium is A-OK – we would say it’s a positive overall or at least a step worth testing. From our view, Alabama is asking employees to pay now and save later; their research suggests people with BMIs greater than 35 generate more than $1,700 per year in additional health care costs. Our country just can’t sustain that, full stop.
Alabama is legendary for its obesity and diabetes and overall, we applaud the state government for taking a proactive role and attempting to help the state get on its feet and out of the #2 spot for obesity and diabetes (right behind Mississippi). Approximately more than 30 percent of the state is categorized as obese, more still are considered overweight, and 10 percent of the entire population also has diabetes. Houston, we have a problem! These figures compare to average figures for the US of 30 percent obesity and eight percent with diabetes. Those are figures that need to be on the decline too but especially the states with the worst percentages for diabetes and obesity need help now.
Our suggestion for the angry, overweight state workers? Get a move on it! Do whatever you can to start exercising and making better nutrition choices. The Dothan editorial recommends that even with a conservative weight loss of three pounds a month, someone who is diligent in switching to a healthy (or even just healthier) lifestyle could lose as much as 50 pounds by the time the obesity surcharge takes effect in January 2010. We know that small changes in diet and exercise can make a big difference. There have been previously initiatives such as “Scale Back Alabama” and we look forward to the return and increase in public education and awareness programs.
We’re also curious to check out if the state insurance policy covers weight loss or weight reduction surgery and how many people will move to take advantage of this before January 2010. It’s been shown in studies that diabetes completely resolves in many patients who undergo surgery. While long term data still needs to be shown, it’s certainly something to take a closer look …