TEXT OF STORY
KAI RYSSDAL: Dieting and watching what you eat can be a challenge. There’s nothing more boring than carrots for a snack when what you’d really like is a Snickers bar or something. So the state of Alabama’s offering a stick to go with that carrot. A monthly chunk added to your health insurance bill if you don’t at least try to trim down. From WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama, Tanya Ott has the story.
Tanya Ott: Here’s a number for you: Obesity costs the U.S. health care system $93 billion a year. But honestly, the number I wanted to know when I first heard about this policy was my body mass index. So I went to the Web.
My height is 5-foot, 2 inches. And my weight is 164 pounds. We hit “compute BMI” and the answer’s 30.
Under the new plan, state employees in Alabama who have a BMI of more than 34 and don’t address their problems with cholestoral or blood pressure, will have to pay $25 more a month for health insurance.
ALAN MONHEIT: This is not really good public policy.
Alan Monheit is a health economist at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He says several things determine someone’s predisposition to being overweight — from how far they commute to genetics. But Eric Finkelstein, author of “The Fattening of America: How the Economy Makes Us Fat,” thinks genetics are overblown. He says for many people, the issue is behavior.
Eric Finkelstein: I think the question that people need to ask is, Are we better off with a strategy that may discriminate against some subset of individuals but that, on net, may substantially improve the health and the financial health of the country. And I think that’s really what this law boils down to.
Finkelstein says it’s no different than private health insurance where rates are based on risk. Alabama will spend more than $1.5 million on medical screenings and health education the first year of the program.
I’m Tanya Ott for Marketplace.
There’s a lot happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible.
Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.