Obesity and Health Insurance

by Ethan Calvin

Alabama is the first state in the U.S. to require state employees to pay for their health insurance if they are obese.The Alabama State Employees’ Insurance Board will assess a charge of $25 per month if any of the 37,527 state workers have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or higher and doesn’t show weight-loss progress.

The plan was approved last week, reported the Los Angeles Times.According the proposal, employees have until January of 2010 to get in shape.Alabama already penalizes state workers for unhealthy habits – smokers must pay $24 per month for their health insurance. If they also are obese, their health insurance will go up to $49 a month.”We are trying to get individuals to become more aware of their health,” said an Insurance Board member.

On the surface, the proposal makes sense. It’s widely accepted that being obese is a health risk – risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and a myriad of other health problems. So why not penalize people for being unhealthy?

The oppositions to this hypothetical question are many. Mostly being expressed by the obese employees of Alabama themselves.

Well, the problem is every overweight and obese person is not necessarily unhealthy.A recent study found that about half of overweight Americans (BMI of 25 to 30) have normal blood pressure and normal cholesterol levels. Of those who are obese, having a BMI more than 30, almost one-third have normal blood pressure and cholesterol counts, wrote the LA Times article.”[The new plan is] terrible. Some people come into this world big,” pointed out an Alabama state employee. It seems like an interesting debate to come.

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