Is your employer charging workers who are obese or smoke more in healthcare costs?
Several news outlets have published articles claiming some mid- and large-size companies are zapping those who won’t quit smoking or who won’t lose weight. According to an Oct. 31, 2011 U.S. News and World Report article, beginning in 2012, the discount giant Walmart began charging employees who use tobacco higher premiums, but the retailer is also offering free quit-smoking programs.
“Tobacco users consume about 25 percent more healthcare services than non-tobacco users,” Greg Rossiter, a spokesman for Walmart, told U.S. News and World Report. "The decisions aren't easy, but we need to balance costs and provide quality coverage."
Obesity is also a costly concern. According to a study from the Campaign to End Obesity, the economic impact of obesity in the United States is actually twice the amount previously estimated -- and exceeds the costs of even smoking. The myriad health issues associated with obesity do lead to higher health insurance premiums -- for everyone, CBS News reports in an April 30, 2012 piece on the study.
“The U.S. spends an excess of $190 billion a year,” CBS said the study found.
While most agree smoking and obesity are unhealthy, not everyone agrees that those who indulge should pay more. In an Aug. 3, 2012 opinion piece published on Slate, writer Amanda Marcotte says, “The brutal reality is that the reason a lot of adults are fat is that they were fat as children. Research shows that obese children are at least twice as likely to be fat adults as non-obese children. Children aren't generally recognized in our culture as fully capable decision-makers.”
Marcotte goes on to argue that parents are to blame for overweight kids and that “charging adult fat people higher premiums to punish them for what we all accept is the parent's fault is simply unfair.”
Marcotte cites an in-depth New Times Magazine article, “The Fat Trap,” which chronicles just how hard it is to lose weight and keep it off.
But the NY Times Magazine article also points to what most people seem to agree on, no matter what they weigh: There is an urgent obesity problem in this country.
“A third of the U.S. adult population," the Dec. 28, 2011 NY Times Magazine article contends, "[is] classified as obese.”
Given that the carrot hasn't seemed to work -- lose weight, feel better -- will pocketbook punishment succeed?