Starting in January, 100 obese South Carolina government workers will have a chance to get their weight loss surgery completely paid for.
Yahoo News reports that under the pilot program, South Carolina’s state employee insurance plan will cover weight loss surgery for 100 workers on a first come, first serve basis.
The test program was put in the 2010-11 budget to address the state’s growing obesity problem. The obesity rate in South Carolina has doubled since 1990, with an alarming 30 percent of adults classified as obese. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly two out three adults in South Carolina are overweight or obese.
Each surgery costs about $24,000, which may sound like an astronomical price to pay, but it is nothing compared to the current $1 billion spent each year in South Carolina on obesity-related health issues.
Workers who hope to qualify for the program must have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 40, which clinically classifies them as morbidly obese, pass a psychological exam and participate in post-surgical nutrition and support plans.
While the announcement has many excited over cutting costs, saving lives and improving health, others are criticizing the decision, claiming the state should be encouraging healthy weight loss and lifestyle changes. If obese employees can get free surgery, where is the incentive for them to take care of themselves? And where are the benefits for those who are working hard to lose weight and change their health habits on their own? Many believe it’s fixing the symptom and not addressing and preventing the issue itself.
Do you think South Carolina is on the right track to curbing their obesity problem? Is funding weight loss surgery the best way to end obesity, or just a quick fix to cut spending?