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If You're Obese, Get Ready To Start Paying Fines

According to an article in Time Magazine, the state of Alabama, unhappy with its second place position in national obesity rankings, intends to reverse course towards healthier living for its constituents by implementing what some are calling a controversial law that would require all obese state employees to pay $25 per month for health insurance costs - a fee they've never had to pay before, since they are government employees, with free health insurance as part of their benefits package.

Government statistics show Alabamians have a weight problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30.3 percent are now obese, ranking the state behind only Mississippi.

I guess the strategy here is to hit them where it hurts the most - their wallets and purses - until they work their bodies into more "acceptable standards," based on the nationally accepted BMI index. A BMI of 30 is considered the threshold for obesity.

State employees will be required to go through annual health screenings to test their blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose levels and for obesity. And those who fail the tests will have to enroll in a fitness 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 $25 monthly starting in January 2011.

Of course, this doesn't sit very well with those fine men and women of Alabama, and complaints have already been registered. However, it looks like it's a done deal, and they'll have to comply... or move to another state... although it's possible that other states could adopt a similar policy, especially given recent national concerns over the overall health of Americans, with a significant number considered obese.

Proponents of big government will likely champion the idea. Others... not so much. I can hear cries of "big brother" coming from the right. A police state is only a few statutes away.

Will it work in the long run? I doubt it! Obesity is an illness as far as I'm concerned, and should be treated as such. It's practically an epidemic now, if you believe the CDC's numbers. This kind of legislation only trivializes it I think, and might actually backfire.

Imagine if it was a nationwide law - the BMI index becomes THE standard by which we all are judged... every American is required to get themselves checked out every year, and the results of their tests are sent to some governing body for verification... and those with BMI's of over 30 are required to enroll in some government approved wellness program, to nurse themselves back to acceptable health standards or pay a monthly fine for as long as they are over the BMI limit. An obvious follow-up question would be, what if someone refuses to do any or all 3 - refuses to have an annual check-up, refuses to get themselves into a wellness program, or refuses to pay the fine? What happens to them then? Will they get thrown in jail for failing to comply? How far will the government go to see its policies enacted?

What do you think?



  1. UK Black Chick aka Wendy said...

    This is a touchy subject. Being overweight or morbidly obese is certainly a health issue as heavier people are, supposedly, more prone to certain health risks, particularly heart disease.

    However, is obesity in itself an illness? It certainly is for some people, but for many in today's modern society it's more of a case of eating unhealthily combined with not exercising enough (or at all).

    Whilst I think that people should take some responsibility for their health, I feel the food industry has a lot to answer for too. Having niche slim/diet ranges (which often come at a premium) isn't good enough. Manufacturing and nutritional standards should be strictly regulated so that, even while people are encouraged to improve their diets and lifestyles, they're not having to do so at a premium, and have lots of healthy, affordable and readily available foods to choose from.

    In a Times article last year about what people around the world eat, the typical US family's weekly consumption was vast (in amount, not in range) but contained very little fresh fruit and vegetables, and not even that much unprocessed protein, compared to families from other countries around the world.

    Mind you, the UK population is notoriously bad on the diet front too, and are pretty much the fat people of Europe while the US population are the fat people of the world. Of course, it's all relative as the growing middle classes (no pun intended) of any so-called third world or developing country are just as rotund as their western counterparts.

    People certainly need to take responsibility and do more to ensure they have good health, but they should be encouraged, supported and given a wide variety of affordable choice rather than penalised outright in a a society where snacking and dining on fatty, salty and sugary processed food is an acceptable way of life.

    People's health should come before healthy profit. An overweight population is a drain on the resources of any healthcare system, but you can't make money off dead people.

  2. The Obenson Report said...

    I'd consider it an illness in the sense that it's an addiction - to food, as silly as that might sound. So, it's like dealing with drug addicts. I'd certainly put some of the blame on the people themselves for their apparent lack of self-control; but I've also heard and read about certain foods (especially fast food) having addictive substances in them, intentionally added (McDonald's for one) for obvious reasons - so that customers keep coming back, like drug addicts needing a fix.

    So, I suppose there's blame to be passed around - the "users," the "suppliers," and maybe the government too for not intervening sooner. And therein lies the problem - these corporate suits who run the fast food joints and others of their ilk, donate money to the campaigns of our politicians, creating an obvious conflict of interest for the politicians. Should we do the right thing and regulate them, and in essence, stop the flow of green to our bank accounts, or do we keep our mouths shut, leave the burden entirely on the people, and don't bite the hand that feeds us?

    Oh - a perfect example. I posted an entry some time ago on the banning of Menthol cigarettes and the black congressional caucus: THE MENTHOL EXEMPTION

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