Extra Pounds Mean Fees in Alabama
By PHILLIP RAWLS, AP
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama, pushed to second in national obesity rankings by deep-fried Southern favorites, is cracking down on state workers who are too fat.
The state has given its 37,527 employees a year to start getting fit — or they'll pay $25 a month for insurance that otherwise is free.
Alabama will be the first state to charge overweight state workers who don't work on slimming down, while a handful of other states reward employees who adopt healthy behaviors.
Alabama already charges workers who smoke — and has seen some success in getting them to quit — but now has turned its attention to a problem that plagues many in the Deep South: obesity.
The State Employees' Insurance Board this week approved a plan to charge state workers starting in January 2010 if they don't have free health screenings.
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. But if they don't, they must pay starting in January 2011.
It infuriates me that the state of Alabama implies that fat people cost the state money and therefore must be penalized. How about diabetics? How about people with cancer? How about people with disabilities (mental and physical)? Should they remove the wheelchair-friendly curbs and stop allowing access to public places for people who can't climb stairs? It obviously costs the state money to provide those accommodations - and they only do it because of the ADA Act. But the point is that once you get started on this kind of thinking, you can't really stop.
I think it would be more useful for the state to concentrate on the things that mitigate toward health or un-health. Of course, right away they would discover that inequalities in income and education lead to inequalities in health outcomes. So maybe the state would be better off tackling the underlying problems of income inequality and poor education.
But it's easier for them to deride fat people than to tackle the real problems of society. Besides, many fat people already hate themselves.