Fat? Can’t Work Here!

If I said to you, dear readership, that there is an obesity epidemic in the United States, I would venture to say that there is no way you haven’t heard that before. The claim is everywhere from news programs, to movies like Super Size Me, and all over the Internet. It has also spawned an entire industry of what I like to call “get thin quick” schemes and my newest favorite is Sensa in which you shake some scary crystal-like chemicals onto your food and lose weight (insert eye roll and concerned about safety face here).

Being that I am not a scientist, I cannot say whether the obesity epidemic is real, though from the onslaught of media I see, I would conjecture it is legitimate. A Google search of “obesity epidemic in the US” returns over 5.5 million search results! From what I see, obesity is becoming a major factor in our lives, and as a follow up to my No Smoking post, being fat could now prevent you from getting a job.

I started thinking about this when a friend from college posted at the very bottom of the aforementioned blog post that her mother-in-law works at a hospital that will charge employees higher health premiums if they are obese, provide them treatment options, and allow the employee to garner money back through reduced healthcare rates after weight loss. There is no doubt that chronic conditions resulting from obesity like diabetes and Coronary Artery Disease drive up healthcare costs and thus, the cost of insurance premiums. The CDC says that chronic diseases (for which obesity is closely linked) account for 75% of our healthcare costs and, important to keep in mind, these diseases are preventable.

What about job applicants? Are there employers that are turning away obsess applicants? I’m so glad you asked. Victoria Hospital in Texas has begun turning away obese applicants with a Body Mass Index of 35 or higher and gave a figure of someone that weighs 210 pounds at five feet, five inches tall which fits their requirements, but according to the CDC is still obese! I suppose everything really is bigger in Texas. However in the case of Victoria Hospital, they state that an obese employee doesn’t project the image of what a healthcare worker should be. Hhmm, sounds discriminatory; however, just like smoking, weight is not a protected class under Federal employment law such as race, religion, or age (40 and over). This ban has stirred up quite the controversy. If you Google this topic as well, you could spend hours reading articles, blogs, pundits, all sorts of thoughts on obesity and preventing obesity in the workplace. Here is a topical article from McGladrey, which I would consider to be a reliable source.

I will not pass judgment on this topic mostly because I don’t yet know enough, but I do know this brings up a lot of questions. My friend Jen’s brother is a body builder so does pure muscle count as too heavy? What if a woman just had a baby? Do her premiums rise because she has 30 pounds of baby weight to lose? Also, if workplaces have a focus on wellness, why isn’t it working? Why is the overweight epidemic continuing to worsen? These are tough questions without a doubt.

So what do you think? Also, what have your companies done for wellness programs? Or, does your company ban obese applicants or charge higher insurance premiums? I want to know! Please leave in the comments section and I will follow up with more research.

Finally, don’t forget your vegetables!

About the author

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Cassie Sturdevant

Cassie Sturdevant is a Senior Recruiter for Impact Advisors, a healthcare IT strategic and implementation services consulting firm just named 2013 Best in KLAS for Overall Services. She specializes in humor and follow up.

2 Comments

  • There is no doubt that we have an obesity problem. Everywhere you look. I myself have fallen victim to being overweight, however, I feel that I personally was taught the healthy way to eat as I grew up. I think part of the problem lies within ourselves and another part lies within what we have available to consume. Moderation is definitely a key, and teaching our young proper eating habits along with exercise is the key. Our local Mill has implemented tougher insurance quotes based on ones health. ie: smoker or not, overweight or not. There are a lot of people up in arms over it and then there are some willing to pay the higher premium and continue down the same path.

  • Beth,

    Just quickly, you are the best mother-in-law EVER. Come on, who else out there has a mom-in-law that comments on their blog?!

    Back to the issue at hand, that’s very interesting that many are willing to pay more in order to continue smoking or be obese. This reminds me of the saying, “pay to play!” Smoking and obesity creates higher health care costs for employers and their surrounding communities and therefore, I support the idea of higher insurance premiums for smokers, etc with some sort of “out” i.e. for let’s say, a new mom with 40 pounds of baby weight to lose. I also like the idea of providing treatment options like Weight Watchers to employees in order to help get them to that lower premium bracket.

    Although, this does beg the question . . . do I really need to be awarded for living a healthy lifestyle? Do I even deserve to be? I suppose in today’s society the answer might be yes. I don’t know . . . what do you think?

    Cassie

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