Health-related goals are often implemented by employers that require participation in wellness programs to receive full health benefits, but plans seldom cover evidence-based obesity treatments, according to data presented at Obesity Week 2013.
“Unfortunately, it seems that a growing number of employers figured out that carefully crafted weight or BMI requirements can also be an effective way of making it harder for people with obesity to enjoy the full benefits of health care,” Theodore K. Kyle, RPh, MBA, of ConscienHealth, said in a press release. “Our study shows how some programs can amount to a subterfuge for discrimination. All too often, a wellness plan that sets weight goals for employees is paired with a health plan that denies coverage for evidence-based obesity treatments. By doing this, an employer risks alienating more than a third of its employees.”
Of 5,382 employed US adults surveyed, 849 (16%) reported that their employer required they participate in a wellness program to qualify for full health benefits.
Sixty-seven percent of the adults whose employers required participation in a wellness program told researchers that their plan set wellness goals for weight (41%), blood pressure (38%), exercise (36%), cholesterol (35%) or diet (25%), according to data. However, 59% said their health plan did not cover evidence-based treatments for obesity, such as fitness training (22% covered), dietitian (14%), medical weight-loss clinic (11%), weight-loss surgery (9%) and weight-loss drugs (8%).
In a press release, Robert Kushner, MD, director of the Northwestern Comprehensive Center on Obesity, said tackling obesity in the workplace requires a holistic approach.
“Doing it right includes offering well-designed workplaces that encourage activity, cafeterias that focus on healthy eating, leaders who model healthy behavior, and health plans covering a wide range of treatments,” Kushner said.
The research presented by Kyle and Joseph F. Nadglowski, of the Obesity Action Coalition in Tampa, Fla., has been recognized by The Obesity Society’s Health Services Research Section as, “one of the best studies being presented during Obesity Week,” according to the release.
For more information:
Kyle TK. Abstract T-43-OR. Presented at: Obesity Week; Nov. 11-15, 2013; Atlanta.