Thursday, June 10, 2010

Get serious about losing weight or losing money

Earlier this week I underwent several medical ultrasound tests offered by Life Line Screening. I was tested for carotid artery disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, atrial fibrillation/stroke and peripheral arterial disease.  My results will be sent to me in a few weeks. 

While at the screening center, I noticed the majority of people taking the tests were grossly obese.  I am talking about people in motorized wheelchairs or scooters not because they are crippled but because they are too damn fat to walk.  In other words, these people were 100-200 pounds overweight.  And now due to due to their lack of ability to control their intake of food, they are dealing with unnecessary cardiovascular disease, etc. They are eating themselves to death.  

Earlier the same week I read an Associated Press article "Dieting for Dollars?"  The piece describes how some employers are offering their workers money in order to lose serious weight.  At least one third of U.S. companies are offering financial incentives to motivate their employees to drop some fat and get healthier.

Why would companies go to such lengths to encourage their employees to "diet for dollars"? Mainly because obese workers are costing America's companies $45 billion dollars a year!  That's right . . . $45 billion a year.  How embarrassing. 

Naturally corporations would rather spend money to motivate their workers to diet in order to save more money in the long run.  

OhioHealth, a hospital chain whose work force is mainly overweight launched a program to have their employees wear pedometers to compel their people to walk more.  The more they walk, the more money they win - up to $500 a year. But do companies have to pay money to their staff to get healthy?  How about giving healthy people a bonus for not being overweight?  

In one study performed by Cornell University, it was shown that after looking at seven employer weight loss programs, the results were depressing. The average weight loss in most workplaces was a little more than a pound

The problem of being overweight is a grave issue. More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight and one third is obese. Individuals who are overweight have a greater tendency to die from heart disease, diabetes and other conditions.  

Take a look at the people who are in the Medicare-paid-for motorized wheelchairs, which you and I are paying for with our tax dollars.  In addition, these people and many more like them are costing employers an estimated $45 billion annually in health care costs and lost labor.

There's no excuse for this!  Haven't you noticed that most poor people in the U.S. who line up at food lines are overweight?  How do you get fat when you don't have enough food to eat? 

In some cases sales taxes have been used to to drive up the cost of cigarettes to drive down smoking rates. How about we impose a higher sales tax on Super-Sized food?  

Unfortunately, studies show that people don't respond to higher taxes in order to get them to stop a bad habit that is compromising their health. Humans are much more interested in incentives . . . money.  

Well, if corporations gave lower insurances premiums to those who maintain a healthy weight and penalize overweight people with higher health care premiums or higher co-payments, I bet that would inspire obese people to drop the weight. 

Why should overweight people be offered vacation trips, money or reduced health care premiums to get them to drop the extra pounds?  That makes no sense.  Reward the people, as with the auto insurance companies, who have a safe "driving record" not the people who are accident prone and are receiving obesity tickets. 

Overweight people are getting reimbursed by some companies for taking Weight Watcher classes or for enrolling in 12 week online health programs.  I'd like to see the same companies pay for my gym membership for every year I stay at a healthy level of weight. 

Why do we reward people who break the rules and ignore the individuals who keep them?  Not only that.  I don't want to pay for motorized wheelchairs for obese humans who couldn't hold themselves back from going for seconds and thirds or imbibing a whole bag of Doritos.  

According to the Associated Press article psychologists conclude people are more motivated by the risk of losing their own money than by a chance they'll win a big fat check. What if overweight people slap down $1000 into a special account and if they do not lose weight by a certain date, they lose their $1000.  In fact, with some companies the procedure of having people lose money caused them to lose more weight!  

In the end, overweight people will lose weight when they get tired of living in an unhealthy condition and decide they want to do something tangible to make a change. They will also lose weight if insurance companies charge them higher health care premiums since they placed themselves in an unhealthy state. Let the other ones get a break for having a "safe driving record."