A Big Fat Health Insurance Problem


IstockphotoFrom Health magazine

Need to lose weight? Thats not going to make your insurance company happy. If youre overweight or obese it probably costs them more. Even if youre in an employers health-insurance plan, you may all have to pay higher premiums if there are a lot of overweight people in the office filing more health claims.

But the real challenge is for those women who are trying to get private insurance—finding affordable health coverage can be difficult, if not impossible, if youre overweight.

Rules vary by insurance company. But, in general, heavier women are likely to take a financial hit. For instance, a woman who is 5 feet 4 inches tall and has no other health problems will likely need a medical exam and pay higher premiums if she weighs more than around 180 or 190 pounds, says John Barrett of Health Insurance Brokers in Pasadena, California. Rates may range from 20 to 100% higher, depending on the carrier. And if that 5-foot-4 woman weighs more than around 220? She could be automatically declined coverage.

Women who try to lose weight dont get much help, either. “Weight counseling and early preventive treatment of obesity arent covered by many plans,” says John Wilder Baker, MD, president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. And insurance plans often wont cover bariatric surgery or other obesity treatments.