If you are seeking your own health insurance outside of an employer plan, your weight has a lot to do with the premium you’ll pay as well as your ability to even qualify for insurance. Insurance companies find this to be logical. Overweight individuals account for a higher percentage of health-related costs than they should, all other things being equal.
From the New York Times:
Heavy people do not spend more than normal-size people on food, but their life insurance premiums are two to four times as large. They can expect higher medical expenses, and they tend to make less money and accumulate less wealth in their shortened lifetimes. They can have a harder time being hired, and then a harder time winning plum assignments and promotions…
Complications from obesity, particularly diabetes, which afflicts 21 million Americans, push up the bill: $44,000 for a heart attack, $40,200 for a stroke or $37,000 for end-state kidney disease…
As the cost of group health care increases for corporations, many companies are looking for ways to cut costs. One way to do so is to encourage a healthier lifestyle among employees. In my company, there are a number of programs available to employees who are looking for ways to improve their health. Some companies, in addition to offering employee assistance programs, are beginning to set health insurance premiums, or the percentage of these premiums paid by the employee rather than the employer, by a measure of weight.
The body-mass index (BMI) is one such measure being used to determine how much an employee should pay for their portion of the company’s group insurance plan. The reasoning is simple: overweight individuals cost the company more in health insurance costs. But is this discrimination?
The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric will be running a feature on this issue tomorrow night. This week, the program will focus on obesity in America. The series is called “Forced to Be Fit;” segments to be aired Tuesday through Thursday will take a look at ways people in this country are being encouraged to lose the extra pounds, whether they want to be or not.
Extra Weight, Higher Costs [New York Times]
Published or updated November 5, 2007.