Saturday, July 30, 2011

Discrimination Against Overweight People

From "rage - intense anger; fury"

Earlier today, my uncle and I had a disagreement about universal healthcare. He thinks that the government shouldn't pay for healthcare, and I believe that humans should take care of one another. However, that debate's neither here nor there.

The argument made me think about something I'd heard not long ago about raising health insurance rates for overweight/obese people. Of course, being a good librarian-in-training, I had to do a quick Google search, which led me to a Gallup poll regarding health insurance rates and hiring policies for "significantly overweight" people and smokers.

Not a good sign.

Not at all. I won't discuss the results about smokers, but suffice it to say that they were even more unfavorable than the ones for overweight people. Over forty percent of people polled said that it would be justifiable to charge higher insurance rates to "significantly overweight." What's more astonishing is that 14% said it would be okay to discriminate against people in hiring practices just for being "significantly overweight"! That's outrageous.

Also, I'd love to know the working definition of "significantly overweight." Did they outline a definition, or is it up to the person polled to choose how they would define "significantly overweight"? Would it be based on BMI, body fat percentage, or simply if a person looks fat?

I understand that people assume that being overweight means that you'll suddenly have all sorts of health problems, but I still have trouble accepting that so many would be willing to charge overweight people extra, especially since people who earn less money are more likely to be overweight.

The entire situation is disheartening.


  1. My work charges $5 per week extra if you are a smoker. (started this year) and it could look like that it might go to other things as well. There are some places that some bonuses, etc are tied to health/weight/etc. (One I heard of is Whole foods, but have not done the research to confirm)

  2. Ugh. So disheartening. I don't mean to constantly point to myself as an examine, though I think I'm a good one. I have an obese BMI... but I am 100% healthy. Like, never cost insurance ANYTHING because I am in tip-top shape. Seriously -- how do you even judged who is charged these premiums? Ugh.

    Re: jobs that offer bonuses for people who are "healthy." OMG that pisses me off sooooooo much. Again, partly b/c these places use the craptastic BMI scale. Happily, both my current job and last job offer/ed subsidies for people to pursue health (so enabling it but not "rewarding" it). At my last job, you got $300 back per year from our insurance company towards either something like Weight Watchers or a gym membership. At my current job, you save 50% on WW starting this week (just launched, so excited!) and they offer health screenings & other discounts to us. More companies should have these programs... not higher insurance rates for "fatties."

  3. @Denise, one of my previous places of employment gave bonuses if you passed their four physical tests, and I failed the BMI so I received half of what my "normal" weight coworkers received.

    @CurvyNerd, see note to Denise! It is frustrating, but at least some of them are starting to realize that BMI isn't the end all, be all, of healthy living.