Will Overweight Employees Be Punished?

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
  • Ever get the feeling that you’re being watched, only to look over your shoulder to find that no one is there? Well, the next time you look you might find that the feeling is justified. You might just see your boss standing there, and his intention is the not the warm fuzzy kind.

    Your waistline is about to become a feature of great interest to your employer, and if he doesn’t like what he sees, you may actually be punished for being overweight.

    A newly published survey maintains that 40 percent of U.S. companies are willing to use surcharges against employees if they believe that their health has become an issue. The target population is employees who are overweight or who smoke, and it is predicted that two-thirds of U.S. companies will make a practice of penalizing these target employees by the year 2015. 

    How’s This For a Solution?

    Beginning next year the aforementioned 40 percent will use surcharges—such as higher insurance premiums or deductibles—for employees who do not meet the company definition of health

    Employers are sharpening their teeth when it comes to dealing with workers who are overweight or have high cholesterol. A study done by the Obesity Action Coalition found that workers in over 5,000 companies were required to participate in employer wellness programs if they were to receive full benefits. A whopping 67 percent were also required to meet weight-related health goals. About 60 percent of these employees had no coverage for fitness training, counseling with a dietician, obesity medications or weight-loss surgery.

    The Affordable Care Act allows for companies to enact a blanket increase on all premiums or pass along increases to employees who do not measure up in company programs should these programs not save on costs.

    Some health and labor experts contend that the penalties in these programs may be too severe, and it has also been noted that some of these programs border on discrimination. The courts have remained mostly silent thus far.

    But Can It Work?

    In deference to some state of balance it must be said that employers have attempted to get their employees to improve their health as well as their productivity by offering free screenings, discounted memberships to gyms, and gift cards for weight loss. The outcome of these various approaches has been tepid and insurance costs have continued to balloon. And now we are here. 

    The problem at hand is these types of programs do not have a very good track record for addressing obesity and weight management. As a matter of fact, they have not been very effective at all. At our current juncture there are no clinically proven pharmacologic therapies or treatment protocols for obesity.  

    The majority of adults in the United States remain overweight or obese, and even those who succeed put the weight back on within five years, on average. Given that scientists and clinicians have been unable to successfully address the problems of obesity and weight loss up to this very moment in time, why should you believe that my boss is able to do so? 


    Living life well-fed,  


    My Bariatric Life


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Published On: December 10, 2013