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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Obese people risk paying higher insurance premiums


nmnewsandviews.com

Caroline MacGregor
January 31, 2013 | WGVU   “We are not doing well at all, diabetes rates are too high, obesity rates are too high and it can only change by people who are listening saying to themselves, hey, I have got to get rid of this chronic condition that I can do that by exercising and getting a better diet."

Department of Community Health Director Jim Haveman weighing in on the issue of obesity and looming higher insurance premiums for those who don’t try to overcome their battle of the bulge. The U.S. health care reform law of 2010 includes a provision that allows employers to charge obese workers 30 to 50 percent more for health insurance if they fail to participate in a qualified wellness program.

Haveman says almost two-thirds of Michigan adults have problems keeping their weight down and more than 30 percent are obese.

“Do you know there are thousands of people who quit smoking each year, there's thousands that go on diets to lose weight but as a general population we are still too enamored by the advertising we see, by the fast food.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows obesity rates among adults in 13 states could rise by more than 60% by 2030. The consequences of obesity putting a strain dollar wise on the health care system are tangible.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan now covers about 40 percent of the state’s population. Companies with more than 50 employees will have to provide insurance that meet federal requirements and make it mandatory for obese workers to enroll in a health loss or wellness program. Obese employees who don’t comply will pay higher insurance premiums while companies will pay a penalty. Ron Palmer, CEO of Grand Valley’s Health Plan, is in favor of the new law.

“I think it's a great idea - I think it's very important that this get addressed because we are finding out more about obesity being linked to sedentary lifestyles that are really problematic in terms of your health.”

Insurers cannot discriminate based on pre-existing conditions or gender - a problem with some insurance providers that view obesity as pre-existing condition.

As far as discrimination against obese people, smokers pay up to 50 percent more for individual insurance policies and those who sign up for their employer’s insurance can avoid tobacco penalties only if they enroll in programs designed to help them kick the habit.

“Well, I think my response is that for the vast majority of those people is that they can put themselves into programs that will help them reduce their obesity. Now there are some people who don't have those opportunities because of genetic conditions but for the vast majority of people really have the ability to control their weight.”

Palmer is not surprised restaurants with 20 or more locations will have to list calorie content and other nutritional information or they too will pay a penalty.

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