SC bill: Higher premiums for obese public workers?

February 11, 2009
Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina's public employees may have to prove they're fit but not flabby to avoid a hike in their health insurance premiums under legislation being tweaked to gather support.

A Senate Finance subcommittee delayed voting on a proposal to charge obese public workers an extra $25 monthly. Sen. Greg Ryberg wanted to tie the surcharge to employees' body mass index, a weight and height measurement _ applying it if the BMI exceeds 30, the threshold for obesity...

The Trust for America's Health considers such surcharges a misguided approach toward solving serious ills.

"The theory here is this will incentivize people to lose weight, but how do you go about enforcing it?" said executive director Jeff Levi. "It becomes a punishment."

People can dramatically improve their health by losing 5-10 percent of their body weight, but still weigh in as obese. It means South Carolinians could work hard and still have to pay more, he said.

"When you see states with obesity rates like Alabama and South Carolina, it's not just a problem for state employees and not charging enough for their health insurance. You have to change behaviors," Levi said. "You don't do that by stigmatizing people."

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