Money, Muffin Tops and the Future of Health Care Costs
Yes I know that title is a little strange for a Mr. ToughMoneyLove Monday morning article but bear with me. It is indeed about hard truth and your money.
This is also the time of year when people start contemplating the ubiquitous (and rarely to be complied with) New Year’s Resolutions. I haven’t researched this but I feel comfortable in stating that “lose weight” and “save money” probably run in the top 5 on most lists.
Well it turns out that money and weight are more closely tied together than perhaps some of use were aware.
As reported in a Wall Street Journal blog, a study of overweight adults concluded that those who were paid to lose weight were much more effective in accomplishing their weight loss goals than those who did not receive a financial incentive. In other words, for the obese and overweight in this study, money makes the pounds come off. And those actual health benefits from weight loss? In comparison to money, who cares? (if you are interested, here is the actual JAMA study abstract. Thanks to reader Matt for the tip on this.)
If you think about it, that is a very sad commentary on human motivation in our society. Mr. ToughMoneyLove likes money as much as the next guy but please folks, let’s look at ourselves in the mirror and not let dollar signs obscure those muffin tops and extreme love handles.
So how does this psychological curiosity affect the rest of us, including those who are not overweight? Most of us pay for health insurance, either directly or indirectly. For private or business group insurance, our premiums are based on the health experience of others in the group. Unfortunately, most of those “others” in the group are and will continue to be overweight. Some experts predict that based on current trends, 86% of Americans will be overweight by 2030. In money terms according to those same experts, almost a trillion dollars will be spent on weight-related health conditions, representing one of every six dollars spent on health care overall. Wow. Can you say pass the gravy?
I don’t know about you, but I am not interested in spending my tax dollars and insurance premiums supporting other folks’ fat maintenance programs. And yes, it will cost all of us. With the Obama team on the way, the move toward a national health insurance and/or health cost sharing program will accelerate. As that happens, increasing attention should be paid toward the cost factors associated with being overweight. In fact, some state governments with lots of fat people on the payroll (sorry Alabama, too much barbecue and cornbread I guess) will be charging overweight employees $25/month for health insurance that is provided free to employees who are not overweight. (Do you think they read that weight loss incentive study?)
Some people don’t think that being overweight is a good reason to be charged more. Our dear friends at the ACLU have already coined a phrase for this: “lifestyle discrimination.” The ACLU has decided that it doesn’t think much of lifestyle discrimination in the workplace. You can be sure that the ACLU “fat people action team” will be telling the Obama health care team not to make the overweight pay any more than the rest of us for workplace or government sponsored health care. Maybe we all should send copies of the JAMA study to our Congresspersons so that they will know that money can be a powerful weight loss incentive.
Be ready taxpayers. This will be a huge issue and an important one for your wallet and tax bill.
In response to the ACLU position, I enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek comment left at one news article about what the state of Alabama is planning for its overweight employees:
This is discrimination plain and simple. Fat people are not responsible for their physical state. Alabama should tax KFC, McDonalds, and the cable TV companies to cover the cost of health insurance. Fat people unite!
I couldn’t have said it better myself. What do you have to say about it? (And stop eating those Christmas cookies. No? How about if the government gives you a quarter?)