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Repealing the “fat tax”

There is a bill filed this session in the General Assembly to nix the fee on state employees who don’t meet certain Body Mass Index requirements.

The “fat tax”, as it is known in the popular press, will kick state workers into a less generous health insurance plan if they are deemed obese. The original fat tax legislation was pushed during the State Health Plan crisis as lawmakers panicked about escalating costs. It was an understandable reaction to an emergency, but now is the time for cooler heads and brighter ideas to prevail.

Body Mass Index is not a good indicator of individual health or health costs. Obesity is complex and our science on the subject is incomplete. We don’t know enough to start taxing people for extra pounds. There are also serious discrimination concerns as socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity are intertwined with obesity in complicated ways that we don’t fully understand.

As Yale University scholar Rebecca Puhl recently wrote of North Carolina’s law:

Obesity, like many other expensive health conditions affecting employees, is a serious medical condition. Subjecting workers to financial penalties based on body weight is tantamount to charging employees for having a heart attack or needing chemotherapy — an idea that is unreasonable and unethical. While it is certainly imperative to reduce obesity and have a healthy workforce, North Carolina’s proposed solution to this problem is not the answer for several reasons.

The sensible legislation to repeal the fat tax was introduced in the House mostly by Republican lawmakers including Nelson Dollar, Pat Hurley, Dale Folwell, and Hugh Blackwell, although a few Democrats including Pricey Harrison and Chris Heagarty are co-sponsors.

A BMI penalty will not help anyone lose weight. It will punish those least able to pay higher insurance rates. Now that we have a bit more distance from the scramble of last session, and the prospect of a State Health Plan collapse, I hope legislators will strike this harmful provision.

4 Comments

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  2. Complex subject « ??????????

    June 1, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    […] Adam Linker ?????: Obesity is complex and our science on the subject is incomplete. We don’t know enough to start taxing people for extra pounds. There are also serious discrimination concerns as socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity are intertwined … […]

  3. jean

    November 29, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Im for fat tax law.My aunt died because she was obesity.Dr told her to lose weight and she wouldnt,Fat tax law would save a lot of lives.My friend and her son weight around 350 are 400lb.They could loose weight if they wanted to.they like food to good,Dr told them to loose but they want.they are on medicare and run to the DR every month.If they go with out ins. for awhile i bet they would lose.If they would tax them for each extra pound they gain,i bet it would save the State a lot of money and lives.I heard america was Obesity country than any other country.

  4. Austin Kobs

    July 31, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I don’t understand how people are so opposed to this law? Government workers should be subject to different standards that those working in the public sector because they are paid by government revenue (taxes). Obesity is a preventable illness; why shoudl the government have to pay for teh unhealthy decisions of its employees? This law doen’t say you can’t be obese, it just holds you financially accountable for doing so out of fairness for the other people who are charged higher premiums and taxes because of teh immense cost of obesity related medical illnesses. The research on obesity’s negative health effects is undeniable. If we stop getting so emotional about “government interfering with our lives” and look at the issue from a financial standpoint, this law is really minor…