Obesity could make PPACA even more expensive for employers

By Emily Hutto


Obesity could run up the bill for employers adhering to new PPACA requirements.

Obesity is the oh-so-obvious elephant in the United States' room of epidemics. According to L.A. Bariatrics, Marina Del Rey Hospital, more than half of adults in America are overweight and a quarter of adults in the country are obese.

These numbers have a devastating impact on health care. I'll quote Denis Storey's blog "Forget Coke, I’d like to buy the world a scale" on BenefitsPro.com that puts it best: "The stats go on longer than a cheap casino buffet, but just let me drop this one: The obese ring up $190 billion in health care costs annually – a full 20 percent of all health care spending."

Obesity, as defined by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, is having a body mass index of 30 or higher, according to an article on KaiserHealthNews.org. It states that the force recommends behavioral interventions for obese patients beyond basic weight loss programs and activity plans. The force suggests that "effective" weight loss programs include 12 to 26 sessions each year for determining weight loss goals and lifestyle changes, and managing the psychological implications of losing weight. Individuals in these programs, according to the Kaiser article, lost between 9 and 15 pounds in their first year of treatment.

The article also points out that under the PPACA reforms, many health plans will have to provide services recommended by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force. It quotes Helen Darling, the president of the North American Business Group on Health, who asks, "'Does this mean that employers and the government will be paying for up to 26 intense visits every year for every obese person for the rest of their lives?'"

That's a nagging question that has yet to be answered by public officials.

How do you think we should handle the obesity epidemic in conjunction with health care reform?