Taxing Alabamans in poor health

Concerned about its status as the second fattest state in the county (after Mississippi), Alabama has decided on a poor health tax for 37,000 state employees to cover part of the $4 billion annual state medical bill. As devised, employees will pay an extra $25 a month for body mass indexes over 35, or for conditions of high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high glucose (this is different from Japan where people are penalized based on waistlines). The program will go into effect in 2010, but fines won’t start to accumulate until 2011. This is not the first health penalty Alabama has imposed. It already charges smokers $24 a year.

Addendum: In Indiana, Clarian Health Company has decided to start charging employees as much as $60 a month (of course, it would be a health company) for missing BMI, blood sugar, or cholesterol targets. Look for more of these initiatives as policymakers and company executives look for ways to rein in medical costs.

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3 Responses to “Taxing Alabamans in poor health”

  1. Maria Says:

    Interesting, but I wonder whether it could be sending out the wrong message to some people …if you knew you were safely under the levels that get taxed, aren’t you going to be a lot more likely to eat more and be more unhealthy? As long as you stay in the ‘healthy’ category, you might as well live as you like as you would still be untaxed. So the scheme needs to be improved to give incentives to such people to keep going with their healthy lifestyles!

  2. AF Says:

    This also assumes that Body Mass Index is a good measure of health, or even of low healthcare spending. Most major studies have shown the opposite. People with BMIs in the overweight to moderately obese range have longer life expectancy and better health outcomes for most health conditions than people with BMIs in the “normal” range, and they fare significantly better than people in the underweight range. So in fact, if governments wanted to save money on healthcare, they’d tax the underweight and normal weight and pass the savings on to the moderately overweight and obese. Or, they’d simply rejigger the categories to more accurately reflect actual health outcomes and stop using pejorative terms for people who are often in actuality perfectly healthy. Weight is not an accurate measure of health.

  3. jessah gomez Says:

    i’m for that taxing an extra for BMI so that everyone would just seriously take care of their health conditions. if this would take effect probably health conditions would just get down normally as easy as it should be.

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