NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 27, 2008

The state of Alabama has given its 37,527 employees until 2010 to start getting fit -- or they'll pay $25 a month for insurance that otherwise is free, says the Associated Press (AP).

The Alabama State Employees' Insurance Board recently approved a plan to charge state workers starting in January 2010 if they do not get free health screenings.   This decision makes Alabama the first state to charge it overweight workers who do not try to slim down, says AP.

According to Alabama's new plan:

  • If the screenings turn up serious problems with blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose or obesity, employees will have a year to see a doctor at no cost, enroll in a wellness program or take steps on their own to improve their health.
  • If they show progress in a follow-up screening, they won't be charged; if they do not, they must pay starting in January 2011.
  • Research shows that someone with a body mass index (BMI) of 35-39 -- 30 is the threshold for obesity -- generates $1,748 more in annual medical expenses; therefore, the Board will apply the obesity charge to anyone with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher who is not making progress.
  • Moreover, the state will spend an extra $1.6 million in 2009 on screenings and wellness programs.

With Alabamans having one of the biggest weight problems in the nation -- 30.3 percent of Alabamans are obese -- the Board believes that they are justified in their actions.  Many state employees do not see it that way; however, the workers' lobbying group is not complaining.  They do not see the plan as a punishment, but rather as an incentive to get healthy, says AP.

Source: Associated Press, "Alabama hits obese workers with fee,", August 26, 2008.

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