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 “Experts Weigh In On Who
Should Pay For Obesity


Barbara Thompson

A brief article recently appeared in the Connect section of Employee Benefits News, Feb. 12, 2002 regarding legislation mandating coverage of gastric bypass surgery. 

We of course look at this as a good thing.  One of the worst parts about going through weight loss surgery is the very real concern whether your insurance will cover the surgery.  We want to see all States requiring coverage for the surgery.  However, not everyone feels that way including those who manage benefits. These are the Human Resources/ Employee Benefits managers where you or your spouse works. Some see this as a growing trend of government mandates that make benefits more and more costly.  The reaction was initially very negative and was reported in the article, “Getting In Touch With Resentments.” Employee Benefits News, April 2002.

Some comments were very hurtful such as “Coddling a bunch of soft, overstuffed couch potatoes is the way to ruin.  If you want to suck fat out of health care, suck it out of people’s diets.”  Other comments just showed a total lack of understanding that morbid obesity is a disease such as this comment, “Isn’t just eating less a more reasonable and cost-effective therapy?”

To the credit of the human resources profession, this was followed in the next issue with counter-comments such as this “Obviously those who replied to the obesity issues do not know much about why people become overweight.  They are not a bunch of couch potatoes.  Many have very serious reasons that weight becomes a problem.  Before someone judges an obese person, they must first know that the problem is real, and many times [obesity] is caused by underlying issues.”

I regard this controversy as an important one.  Resentments on the part of some in the benefits profession were aired and those defending coverage of the surgery provided some well-needed education regarding the causes of morbid obesity.  This is obviously a group of people many of whom are in need of some enlightenment about our disease. Hopefully when you are arranging your insurance coverage, if you have to deal with an employee benefits person where you or your spouse works, you will deal with one from the enlightened group.   


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