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July 16, 2004
Taxpayers must eat the cost of obesity

The Department of Health and Human Services now considers obesity as an illness, and Medicare and Medicaid will cover the treatment, according to the Washington Times.

The change means Medicare participants may ask for reimbursement for treating excessive weight.

Anyone with a body mass index of 30 or higher is considered obese, and those with an index of 25 to 29 are considered overweight. A healthy body mass index is 19 to 25.

Patients are not guaranteed automatic coverage for treatment.

Medicare will review the requests, which could range from joining a weight-loss or fitness club to surgeries and counseling, and their rates of success before granting coverage.

Of course, the cost of these benefits will be passed on to taxpayers and small businesses.

Small businesses probably would see the largest rate increases, said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, a Washington nonprofit for about 219 businesses and health care insurers. Although unions and companies with more than 500 employees are big enough to decide which health options they will cover, small businesses must buy insurance packages that have minimum coverage requirements specified by the states, Ms. Darling said.

More small businesses could drop health plans altogether if states required additional obesity coverage that push up overall rates, she said.

"Unfortunately, regulators love to put in mandates they are not stuck paying for," Ms. Darling said.

Washington taxpayer advocacy group Citizens Against Government Waste called the decision "groundbreaking" in its implications. "We can expect Medicare costs to be even more obese and out of control than they already are while the taxpayer is footing the bill," said Elizabeth Wright, health and science division director.

Taxpayers and employers should not have to pay for anyone's poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle. It's enough that we bear the burden of the illnesses which can be attributed to obesity, but we ought never have to pay for fitness club for someone who doesn't exercise. Hello, that's why they are overweight!

A rational employer would now think twice before hiring an overweight employee, and of course, when refused a job, said overweight job-seeker will pick up the phone and call his local trial attorney who will then sue the poor small business owner straight into bankruptcy. And "obesity" will be added to the already long list of factors which indicate "discrimination," as if bad health habits were an immutable trait. Which puts us back where we began because it makes no sense for the government to offer a treatment for an "illness" that can't be treated, right?

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Whiskey at July 16, 2004 6:23 AM

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» Obesity and Medicare from Galen's Log
Whiskey over at Captain's Quarters addresses the new Medicare ruling on obesity. Taxpayers and employers should not have to pay for anyone's poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle. It's enough that we bear the burden of the illnesses which can [Read More]

Tracked on July 16, 2004 1:18 PM

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