How much does your BMI cost you?

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I am seriously beginning to understand and know my friend better. I want us up close and personal. My body mass index (BMI) isn’t very cute, actually she’s quite fugly. However, there is beauty in her, I just need to dig dip and pull it out, because I know it’s there. Since beginning my weight loss journey, December 2011, I have decreased my BMI by 3.82. It sure doesn’t seem like much, but it sure wasn’t easy.

There are four categories, according to the CDC: underweight, normal, overweight, and obesity.  Each group is assigned to a numerical scale, which will correlate with a person’s suggested BMI.

BMI
Weight   Status
Below   18.5 Underweight
18.5 –   24.9 Normal
25.0 –   29.9 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obese

This number will also be used to decide statistical groups of high risk for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc. This means that we are judged and placed in a group that may or may not seem positive and ill-defined, whether we like it or not. Whether I approve is a non-factor, because so many are trying to grasp and control the growing number of obesity. This number gives a starting point.

This is not the only use for this number. Employers and insurance groups are also finding use in this number. An individual’s premium rates can be determined by their BMI (Associate Press 2007). Using the BMI, an insurance group make decisions of whether you are a high risk person or not. And if you are not in the healthy weight group, then the assumption is that you are overweight, and could potentially need more health care coverage than others. Yes, you have now been reduced to a dollar, and this is not going to help your self-esteem, in the least bit, but it is a reality.

An employer who is self-funded has a tremendous amount of clout, in determining the structure of their health care policies. For instance, if you are a smoker, I have seen employer groups that offer health care policies for smokers and non-smokers, where the smokers’ premium rates are slightly higher. This same process, although not widely used, is an option for an employer group using the BMI.

Insurance rates are rapidly increasing, and until the last stage of the Health Care Reform Act in 2014, there isn’t anything that can be done. The rates may only increase by 10 to 15%, for example; however, if you are a family of 4 and your per pay period premium rate, for a PPO plan, is $450, it will increase by $517.50-540.00. This is a considerable increase, especially when you consider your deductibles and co-insurances. Now, consider a chronic illness, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, with a policy that has a lifetime max of $500,000. Depending on your level of obesity, the actual diagnosis, and severity of your diagnosis, you very well could exceed that half million dollars. Then what?

Body Mass Index and Average Premiums
Average Premiums ($)
BMI
Weight Status
Female
Male
Overall
Below 18.5
Underweight
$172/month
$157/month
$169/month
18.5 – 24.9
Normal
$180/month
$143/month
$164/month
25.0 – 29.9
Overweight
$211/month
$172/month
$185/month
30.0 and Above
Obese
$221/month
$187/month
$201/month
Percent increase in average premiums from Normal to Obese:
22.8%
30.8%
22.6%
Policyholders in the ‘Obese’ BMI category pay 22.6% more on average than those in the ‘Normal’ BMI category (Ehealth 2011)

With that being said, quite often there are incentives offered to lower your BMI and weight, by most employers and insurance groups. Although, the incentives are nice, I feel that mandatory training and education should come with it. The education should include food and nutrition, exercise tips and management, and/or behavior counseling.  At this point, the consumers have had time to properly invest in education and training, and if the decision is to not heed the assistance provided, then it allows probable cause to penalize (increase premiums) the consumers.

I believe this will be the new future. There’s promise in this practice. In addition, I believe the government should follow the same practice, with the health care reform act: educate, apply, and effectively enhance a chance for success in weight loss.

References:

Associated Press (2007). Shrink your BMI–and your insurance bill. MSNBC. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17385151/ns/health-fitness/t/shrink-your-bmi-your-insurance-bill/

Ehealth (2011). eHealth Data Shows that Smokers and Overweight Consumers Pay More for Individual Health Insurance. Retrieved from http://news.ehealthinsurance.com/pr/ehi/ehealth-data-shows-that-smokers-221171.aspx

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