Since 1960, obesity in the U.S. has risen a full 34 percent, with morbid obesity up sixfold. A widely publicized study by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine revealed that obesity is adding more to health care costs than smoking is.
Obese individuals tend to live longer than smokers and almost as long as those who do not have weight problems. At the same time, however, obese people are at a higher risk of developing chronic health problems. Obese men and woman also incur higher medical bills, particularly for hospitalizations and prescription drugs. Obesity even affects energy costs.
Obese people spend an average of $1,850 more on health care per year than people whose weight is in a normal range. And annual health care costs for morbidly obese people are $5,500 more for morbidly obese, a recent study showed.
In a study that looked at 30,000 individuals with health insurance from 2001 to 2007, the average annual health care costs were $1,850 more for obese people than those with normal weight and $5,500 more for morbidly obese people.
As obesity continues to impact our health system, more and more employers are considering workplace wellness programs. Using incentives and penalties, these programs are designed to help employees lose weight and reduce health risk factors. And while workplace incentives and penalties are nothing new to smokers, they will be new to many obese people as wellness programs are introduced or incentives and penalties are increased.
“The decision upholding the Affordable Care Act has cleared the way for a planned increase in the penalties that employers can impose on workers who don’t participate in company wellness programs and, in some cases, who don’t meet certain health targets such as an appropriate body mass index,” an article in the Huffington Post states.
The Affordable Care Act gives employers help in encouraging their employees to combat obesity by allowing employers to charge obese employees more for their health-insurance coverage if they don’t participate in a qualified wellness program.
What’s your company’s health benefit strategy regarding wellness plans? Share with us in a comment below.