Thursday, August 09, 2007

Please tell me this isn't happening . . .

At least one health insurer (and probably others) will actually be docking your paycheck if your BMI is over 30, starting in 2009.

The article's headline reads "Being Unhealthy Could Cost You--Money," but of course it should have read "Being Fat Can Cost You--Money." And that's on top of it costing you so many other things--the right to adopt a child, a seat on an airplane, a job. . . .

I wish I were a lawyer so I could start researching all the ways in which this is illegal. A nice big lawsuit--maybe a class action suit--might nip this repulsive idea in the bud.

**Thanks to BFB for posting on this first.


Unknown said...

that is kind of scary. here's an interesting video interview with dr. mark gold, after an obesity conference at yale:

Rachel said...

My employer already does this wirth smokers - I think it costs them around $100 more a year if they ADMIT to being a smoker. I wonder if anyone actually does admit.

The only way Clarian will know if someone's BMI is over 30 or if they have high glucose or cholesterol levels is to make the person go to the doctor who will then order lab tests, all of which will cost Clarian $$$.

For someone like me who rarely goes to the doctor and is healthy, it would cost them MORE money to test me for all these things which they will then dock me money for because they say I will cost them more money. The logic is flawed, at best.

Kate Harding said...

The only way Clarian will know if someone's BMI is over 30 or if they have high glucose or cholesterol levels is to make the person go to the doctor who will then order lab tests, all of which will cost Clarian $$$.

Good point, Rachel. I mean, I suppose they could take your height and weight to find out the BMI -- which I'd also hope would open up other thorny legal issues -- but I bet if I claimed not to have a BMI over 30, no employer would push me on it, because I don't look like most people's concept of "obese."

Which is part of why I get so furious about all this stuff. People hear "obese" and think it means "practically housebound." They don't realize that this category encompasses a whole lot of people who, in social terms, would be regarded as "chubby." Some people don't realize it encompasses them. They might be in for a wake-up call when their pay is docked.

Then maybe we can get that class-action suit going.

Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz said...

This would be so mortifying.

I am blessed to have my health insurance covered through my father-in-law, because my husband works for him. I'm already the black sheep in my h's family because my therapy bills meant an increase in premiums. If my weight caused another increase for my fat-phobic FIL (the man hired a personal trainer to come to my house and work me out after I had my second baby) I'd never be able to show my face at a family event again.

Just like the comment above regarding excessive extra costs, situations like mine are just one more unexpected side effect of a policy like this (can you say more therapy bills anyone??). It would seem health insurance companies would be ill-advised to open this huge can of worms.

Then again, health insurance companies never - and I mean NEVER - cease to amaze me.


Carrie Arnold said...

It's discrimination. I mean, they would never tell an African-American that they're docking their pay because obesity is more common in that population, as is high blood pressure (both of which have been shown to be genetically related...thank god someone thought to do that study). No. Most Americans would be outraged and rightly so. Yet other than among, um, us, no one seems to be all that pissed off. They think it's good.

It's not just a matter of this. It's also a matter of what's next. And that scares the shit out of me.

Anonymous said...

Hey, black people also have more health problems statistically than white people.

We should dock their paychecks, too! Oh, wait...we already pay them unequally. Problem solved!

mary said...

I have a hunch that this would enrage many more people than we might think.
It's just hard getting the herd to stand up and let them know they are crossing a fine line.
It seems to be money motivated and bogus. While I see articles on a regular basis regarding our health and getting fit, it may be time to see one that challenges the fat=unhealthy myth.
The hospitals are filled with people of all sizes!

Harriet said...

I am such a doofus--it never occurred to me that you could Just Say No.

If you refused to put your BMI on your f***ing insurance forms, what can they do? They can't force your dr. to give them the info, thanks to HIPA laws.

Hee hee. I love it.

Then again, when the athletes in the company are docked pay because their dense muscle mass puts them in the obese category of the BMI chart, maybe we'll see some pushback here.

I still say we hire that class action lawyer.

Carrie Arnold said...

One of my friends is a recent law school grad. And I'm mouthy enough to do some good publicity. Though the starring role, I must confess, is all yours, Ms. Harriet. I bow to your skills. :)

Anonymous said...

This is just a hint at why I've been trying to explain "health risk factors" -- ALL of those numbers that people are being led to believe are measures of health and "healthy lifestyles," but aren't. They are predominately determined by genetics, stress (SES) and aging. The numbers medicalize normal aging (they're based on 20-year olds) and body diversity (those outside of ideal being targeted as diseased) without good evidence. They are DISCRIMINATORY -- but they also sell medications and medical interventions because that is the only way to bring numbers down to ideals (at least short term). Along with selling this stuff to the public is nonstop hype and scaring people about a crisis (of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, of life!, etc.). By leading people to believe (more younger people believe this) that the numbers are matters of personal responsibility, they also sell lots of "health" and wellness initiatives, "healthy eating" and exercise programs -- sadly the fat community has been sold on them and is working right alongside the obesity and pharmaceutical/health industry interests in this regard. Some of the most resistance to science countering the marketing about "good bad" foods, "healthy" lifestyles and health indices (numbers) that is far beyond the evidence comes from those who have come to fear for their health.

But the evidence shows it takes medicine to get numbers "in line" -- that's the main reason why the healthcare industry is pushing them.

In answer to your comment that you can just not tell them -- they got you. That's why the government and insurers have been pushing for those electronic databases of our medical records which link our medical records, claim forms, pharmaceutical records, lab results, etc. They already know what your BP, BMI, blood "cholesterol" and other numbers are. [HIPAA is a joke and gives access to your records to a vast group of interests if they want them.] Plus, for electronic database systems not yet refined, incredibly people have also been voluntarily giving insurers and employers their most private health and lifestyle information as part of those "health risk assessments." Why do you think they are pushing them so hard? They are increasingly compelling people to comply with HRAs using financial incentives. It's all to sell pills and weight loss interventions... and, as we're increasingly seeing, used to "justify" discrimination. Because, we are to believe, those "bad" numbers are your own fault. :(

Harriet said...

Thanks for the link. I'm not sure what I think of this obesity-as-addiction theory. There are plenty of fat people who don't overeat, so there goes that theory. I don't think stigmatizing eating as a kind of addiction is a positive step. I much prefer Ellyn Satter's notion of a "joyful, competent relationship with food," otherwise known as IE, or intuitive eating. And I worry that we're going to see a jump in the number of eating disorders coinciding with the stigmatization of obesity and the push for "wellness" in schools and workplaces. Smoking and doing drugs you can cut out of your life completely, but like it or not, we have to have a relationship with food. I'd rather have a happy one than an adversarial one.

My heart sank as I read your comment, but I thank you for it. Clearly we have a lot to learn when it comes to how the system works. You keep up the good work--keep telling us what things *really* mean so we can go forth and spread the word. But it sure is hard swimming against the current.