Obese workers in Alabama are facing a state-imposed ultimatum: Lose the fat or pay a monthly fine.
Health insurance for the state’s 37,527 employees is currently free, and it will continue to be for healthy workers. However, obese people will be forced to pay $25 a month for the same insurance if they don’t lose the weight by 2010, the Associated Press reported.
Alabama is the first state to penalize workers for obesity. Some other states give workers added incentives to shed pounds and stay healthy.
The state turned to solving the Deep South obesity rate after successfully reducing the number of workers who smoke. It fined them until many kicked the habit.
According to the report, the State Employees’ Insurance Board agreed on a plan to make workers pay fees if they don’t submit to free health screenings.
If results from the screenings indicate medical concerns such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose or obesity, employees will be given one year to visit a doctor for free, begin wellness programs or show progress toward improving their health. If workers fail to comply, they will be charged the extra fee for health insurance.
State worker Robert Wagstaff serves on the insurance board. He said Alabama wants employees to take better care of themselves.
“We are trying to get individuals to become more aware of their health,” he told the AP.
However, some state employees believe the fee is a form of discrimination.
Not all state employees see it that way.
“It’s terrible,” Chequla Motley said. “Some people come into this world big.”
Computer technician Tim Colley has already been hit with a $24 monthly fee for smoking. He said he disagrees with the state’s method of combating obesity.
“It’s too Big Brotherish,” he said.