ICBioethics Blog 

Obesity and Healthcare Cost

Written by: Barbara Postol

The topic of whether or not individuals should pay more for health related costs if they smoke or are a certain weight, for example, is often an area that causes some strong opinions. The Michelin Tire Company of North America is proposing doing just that for overweight employees at the company.  Those of a certain weight may have to pay around $1000 more for their healthcare costs. Michelin is not alone; more and more companies are considering this to offset the cost of employee healthcare.

Obesity is a major public health threat. The rates of obesity are at the highest levels now that they have ever been in history. There is blame placed on the ease of availability of poor quality foods and beverages and less energy output.

Many companies have wellness programs that promote exercise or better eating habits but there is a growing trend to implement more of a “punishment” now for being overweight and raising medical costs. A new trend is to enforce a “fine” for not disclosing some personal health information to employers, such as BMI or other health habits. This causes a great concern for employees who question why this is necessary and who else may be privy to this sensitive information.

Is it ethical? The combination of a growing number of individuals in the US and around the globe classifying as being overweight or obese and a growing number of companies proposing to place more of a burden on the overweight individual for healthcare costs is creating the perfect storm.

Underlying conditions can account for many problems, such as being overweight or having hypertension. It is not exclusive to the eating habits  and pure choice of the individuals. Singling out employees who are obese teeters on workforce discrimination in some cases. The legal and ethical aspects are surely to become a heated debate in the near future.

Mitch GennusoComment