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DEBATE: Can States Charge for Obesity?

DEBATE: Can States Charge for Obesity?

If you are overweight, it probably feels like you are already paying for your weight problems. After all, many people who are not at an ideal weight are suffering from poor health or emotional issues that are taking a toll on their day-to-day activities.

But if you call Alabama home, then look out because you may have to start coughing up some cash for your plump frame.
The state—which was recently handed second place in the national obesity ranks—has recently warned its 37,527 employees that if they don’t slim down within the next year, then they will pay $25 per month for health insurance that would typically be free.

The new law would be a first for the United States, but several states across the nation have also begun to emphasize more healthful behaviors. In July, South Los Angeles banned construction of fast food restaurants for one year, and New York City recently began requiring food chains to post nutritional content on menus.

The Alabama State Employees’ Insurance Board will give state workers until January 2010 to take advantage of free health screenings and begin to implement weight loss goals if need be. If problems do arise, patients will have until January 2011 to make health improvements.

But here’s what we want to know: Do you think state law officials have the right to play diet police? Has the United States hit a point where law enforcement is required in order to cut back on obesity? If you are overweight or know someone who is obese, do you think such laws will help influence personal health choices? [Time Magazine]

Posted: 8/26/08

Yeah, this is such a tough issue to be PC about. I do believe that insurance should charge for things that ARE going to cost more...as a chronically ill person, I understand that my care costs more than a healthy person's. I don't think of it as punishment...no one expects to get their clunky car fixed for free. But rather than just charging extra, programs and a real plan to help people with weight loss need to be in place.

  • By aliciak
  • on 10/2/08 12:24 AM EST

As a health advisor with Take Shape For Life, amongst my clients are Insurance agents. They refer their overweight clients to me so I can get them to a healthy weight in as little as 30 days. Why, so that their client’s premiums will be reduced. This is all to say that we are already being charged for being overweight, just not so blatantly. Obvious is a good thing; it let’s us really see what’s going on. So yes, I agree with the states that are starting to impose these “obese” penalties. Instead of becoming indignant about the extra charge, we should take it as a wake-up call and realize what being preventably unhealthy (yes, being overweight, in most cases is preventable as well as reversible) is costing us, our employers, our families and our country as well. One last thought: for the first time in history, children now have a shorter life expectancy than their parents due to the illnesses caused by obesity. It's time to stop viewing being overweight as a privilege and instead look at the soaring weight gain as the warning it’s meant to be.


Ooo... this is a tough one. While I am all for a democratic, free-thinking society, I do think that the weight issue has spun a bit out of control. Perhaps, such new laws will help people to recognize that there is a very dire problem in our country. That being said, I also go back to the feeling that the government is in fact playing "diet police." My only concern is ... where do we draw the line? If they influence people's eating habits, does the government also begin to push for other changes ... religion, press, etc.? Or is this just a public service, like anti-smoking and drug campaigns? I consistently move back and forth between both points of view.