Obesity Increases Workers Comp Costs

We’ve blogged before about the rising cost of the obesity epidemic in the United States  both in terms of pounds and dollars.

Now research from the NCCI confirms anecdotal data that work-related injuries are far more costly if the injured worker is obese. Hat tip to Insurance Journal for highlighting this study.

The dramatically higher medical costs suggest that the types and nature of injuries sustained by obese workers, especially the “morbidly obese,† are more likely to result in permanent disabilities, NCCI says.

Given that obese claimants have more permanent disabilities and longer duration of medical treatments, it is highly likely that obese claimants would also have higher indemnity costs than comparable non-obese claimants, it adds.

So what can be done?

According to NCCI, one way for insurers to manage this risk for the benefit of injured workers and to control costs is to collect data on claims for height and weight:

If the data is available, insurers could be aware up front if obesity is likely to be an issue and try to improve the outcome for the injured worker and their family by keeping the claim from becoming a permanent injury, and, in turn, reducing duration. Depending on the added cost in terms of managing these claims, it may also reduce overall claims costs.†

Another important part of managing obesity risk is prevention. NCCI observes:

In terms of prevention, insurers could offer incentives similar to those already in place for drug-free workplaces. Employers can also play a role in prevention by putting programs in place to try to improve lifestyle choices in terms of nutrition and fitness.

It concludes:

However, ultimately, it is up to the individual to take responsibility for their own health.†

An interesting point.

A related article in the Wall Street Journal today reports on how local communities around the country are taking new steps to push residents to improve their health.

The WSJ quotes New York City’s deputy commissioner for environmental health saying:

To have true control over your health is not just about what you can do as an individual but what is being done at the community level.†

What do you think?

Check out I.I.I. information on workers compensation and obesity risk.

2 thoughts on “Obesity Increases Workers Comp Costs”

  1. I have to chime in and agree however, this is a slippery slope for employers.
    My employer is ‘pro-active’ on getting all employees involved in some type of healthy regime (an added incentive is not having your health coverage increase). However, but using the standard ‘height/weight’ chart is not an accurate tool across the board. I am a nationally competitive athlete and thus, my height/weight ratio would appear skewed on the charts. The only time my weight was ‘accurate’ for my height is when I compete. Other times, I’m considered ‘obese’. (at 5’2″ 135 lbs).

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