obesity, obesity health, obesity rates, obesity rate

Alabama May Charge Some Workers for Being Obese

August 28, 2008 03:30 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
Overweight employees for the State of Alabama may see an increase in their monthly health insurance premiums if they don’t shed some pounds.

Drawing Attention to Obesity

Starting in 2009, state workers for Alabama will be required to have a variety of medical screenings, including a Body Mass Index measurement. Those who are found to be obese will be given a year to lose weight, at which time those who are still obese will be required to pay an extra $25 a month extra for their health insurance.

Critics call the plan a “fat tax.” In a WebMD article, however, Deborah Unger, clinical director for the Alabama State Employees Insurance Board in Montgomery, said, “As long as you are aware and are doing something to correct it, there won’t be a fee. We either do something to control claims costs or you pay the premium anyway.” According to the Centers for Disease Control, Alabama currently has the second highest rate of obesity in the nation.
The culture of Alabama and the South make it difficult to eat a healthy diet, according to an editorial in the Miami Herald. “Everything is fried there, from grits to okra to mouth-watering chicken—and tea comes presweetened. This kind of food is fat-inducing, and it takes an iron will just to resist.”

Further, the paper also points out that obesity problems can be genetic. And people who aren’t overweight can have conditions associated with obesity, such as diabetes and high cholesterol. “If the concern is about poor health, why not focus on health issues instead of weight?” the paper asks.

“The obesity crisis is getting worse,” says Huffington Post blogger Jeffrey Levi. While health care reform often focuses on access to care and quality of care, Levi argues that “we’ve neglected to put a priority on preventing people from getting sick in the first place.”

Attempts to Address Obesity

Many different programs have tried to address obesity around the world. In February 2008, Mississippi attracted worldwide attention because its state legislature introduced a bill to prohibit restaurants from serving obese customers. The bill’s sponsors, including Rep. Ted Mayhall, said they proposed it to draw attention to Mississippi’s obesity rate, which is the highest in the nation.
Japan has its own  plan for trying to curb obesity, too. Trying to deter citizens from becoming overweight, the country has enacted laws requiring weight loss that are punishable by fine.

England is trying to address obesity concerns at the childhood level. As part of a new national measuring program, schools will record each student’s height and weight and send a letter to parents to notify them if their child has a weight problem. The country has changed its previous policy of only sending this type of information to parents if it had been requested.

Reference: Body Mass Index


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