The Effects of Obesity on Health Insurance Expenses

Obesity and Health Insurance

Americans are fat. As a matter of fact, America is the fattest country in the world. An astonishing 30.6 percent of our population is obese and a total of two thirds of us are considered overweight. This weighty issue is disturbing on so many levels, but since money talks, you should know the country’s greatest health threat is currently costing the nation $79,438 million dollars annually.

The Obesity Trend

For the past 20 years, smoking has been the leading cause of preventable death in the nation. Obesity is quickly taking over that number one slot. Being overweight leads to a slew of costly medical condition including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, gallbladder disease, gallstones, osteoarthritis, gout and breathing problems such as asthma and sleep apnea. If Americans fail to modify their behavior now, by 2018 the effects of unhealthy body mass is expected to add an astonishing $344 billion annually to total health spending with an estimated 103 million American adults tipping the scale in the wrong direction.

With proper diet and activity, obesity is preventable and if the trend was nipped in the bud we can shave a whopping $198,175 million off the projected expenditures. Unfortunately, despite increased consumer awareness about the health risks associated with carrying too much extra body weight, we keep getting bigger. Over the past five years, not only have we failed to put a stop to the trend but 80 percent of all states have seen significant increases in body mass. Since 1988, the average Joe has gained 17.1 pounds while the average Jane has added 15.4 pounds to her figure.

This trend is proving to be costly for us all. Because of their unhealthy disposition, treating overweight people is more expensive than providing medical care to their more fit counterparts. Portly people pay over $10,000 more for health care over their entire life span then the rest of us. (See our infographic of the cost of obesity.)

Everyone is Paying for Obesity

However, even the healthiest of people pay for the price of obesity in this country.

Private health insurance providers do not determine their health insurance rates based on weight factors. Statistics from mortality tables including gender, age, location and smoking statistics help shape the costs. That means within a specific region a 35 year-old, active, healthy woman weighing 135 pounds will have to pay the same amount of coverage as a 35 year-old who weighs 300 pounds.

Since weight is not a criteria determining health insurance rates, demographic information is averaged out and we all end up sharing the financial burden.

How Insurers are Helping

Health insurance providers are well aware of the affect of obesity on health insurance rates. To help their customers help themselves, many health insurance providers actually offer incentives such as gym membership discounts and educational groups to help people maintain a healthy weight. For those corpulent people who have been warned and have taken no action, their weight can be marked down as an unhealthy lifestyle choice on their permanent health record. Down the road, that can be called a pre-existing condition and may prevent you from securing medical insurance or will raise coverage costs.

At this point no one can count on health care reform passing any time in the immediate future. The only option is to take proactive steps to become part of the solution. Whether you live in the one of the country’s sickest or healthiest states you must take steps to ensure your own well-being and encourage your loved ones to do the same. If you do not, we will all end up paying the price.