Tuesday, June 9, 2009


The risks to an individual struggling with obesity are well-known: heart and endocrine issues, joint problems, psychological well-being, and more. A new study from Advanced Plan for Health shows that obesity is also risky to an employer’s bottom line, costing more than double to provide employee health insurance to those considered obese.

The study looked at a population of 128,000 employees and, of those, found that 2,000 were given a diagnosis of “obesity, unspecified,” as defined by the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD codes), which can include individuals with a body mass index greater than 30.

Obese employees cost companies a staggering 135 percent more to insure than other, non-obese employees. Per-member-per-month spending for a non-obese employee ranged from $176.71 to $226.92, while the same range for the obese group was $414.86 to $536.53.

Even more alarming is that while only three percent of the non-obese population was identified as “high risk employees” for medical issues, 12 percent of those in the obese group was considered at high risk for significant medical issues. Additionally, those in the obese population were 25 percent more likely to have more than 15 different providers in the span of 12 months, meaning much more frequent medical visits.

“At a time when every business is looking at how to reduce health care costs – and some even eliminating insurance for employees, this kind of information is insightful,” said Rich Williams, principal of Advanced Plan for Health. “This reinforces the fact that employers need to be smarter about how they utilize their claims information. With proper case management, bringing down the obesity rate is something that will have significant impact on both employees’ lives and a company’s bottom line.”

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