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Should Employers be Allowed to Drop Obese Employees from Company Medical Coverage?

, Should Employers be Allowed to Drop Obese Employees from Company Medical Coverage?

Morbid obesity is generally diagnosed by calculating a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a measure of a person’s proportionality of height and weight. Normal BMI is between the ranges of 20 and 25, for example. Should a person’s BMI exceed 40, or if the person is more than 100 pounds over the normal weight for his her height, the patient is said to be morbidly obese. Understandably, there are many health conditions that accompany a morbidly obese BMI rating: gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), heart disease, osteoarthritis, and elevated rates of certain kinds of cancer. Patients may not suffer from all of these conditions, but the wear and tear caused by excessive stress on the body’s joints, organ systems, and heart can cause innumerable problems. This means that the morbidly obese often incur significantly larger costs for healthcare services rendered than an employee of healthy weight.

The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, obligates employers with 50 or more full-time employees to provide some form of health insurance for their full-time staff. This has many small business owners anxious over how new health insurance premiums will impact their profit margins substantially enough to undermine expansion. One of the many direct consequences of the Affordable Care Act is that, due to the additional health insurance premiums they have to purchase, small business owners are now launching health initiatives for their employees. These health initiatives typically include education regarding preventive lifestyle choices.

Also, new health initiatives for employees may include incentives for compliance or, more prominently, disincentives for non-compliance. For example, a company may require an annual physical during which a person’s Body Mass Index, waistline, and blood pressure are measured. If any of these metrics are found to be outside of the company’s health guidelines, employees may be denied certain benefits based on which categories they exceeded and by how much. While this may seem a harsh measure, the implications for the healthcare industry as a whole are heartening. Preventable illnesses and conditions will be reduced with a corresponding drop in baseline healthcare costs for other consumers.

As additional incentive for employees, employers may elect to offer subsidies for gym memberships, nutritional checkups, and physical therapy. A small investment in preventive lifestyle training has the potential to greatly reduce the total strain on the healthcare industry overall, especially in the light of aging baby boomers. There is legal precedent for the practice through corporate policies against smoking and smokers, so overweight employees may soon find that taking their lifestyle in a healthy direction is the only viable option.

 

Affordable Care Act, body mass index, morbidly obese, preventive lifestyle

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