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Employer Forced to Pay for Obese Employee’s Weight Loss Surgery

When most people think about a worker’s compensation case, you think of someone injuring themselves on the job, and they are compensated because it happened as a direct result of their duties at work.

scales of justiceNo rational company would resent a worker that right. But, now there’s a case of worker’s compensation in Schererville, Indiana that is sure to create a spark in the health care debate, and bring on some emotional arguments from people who are at a healthy weight.

In 2007, at 340 pounds, Adam Childers was working at The Gourmet Pizza in Schererville when he was smacked in the back by a freezer door. He needed surgery, and was going to be compensated for the procedure. Perfectly rational, right? Well, there’s more to the story.

Childers could not get the back surgery performed to alleviate his pain until he underwent weight loss surgery first to drop significant weight from his frame. But, surely Childers couldn’t expect that his employer would pay for this procedure, would he?

Apparently he did. But more importantly, so did a court that ruled the pizza business had to come up with the $20,000 or more to pay for Childers’ weight loss surgery.

Set aside the moral argument over whether or not The Gourmet Pizza should have paid for weight loss surgery. There’s a bigger problem, and an enormous can of worms that can be opened here:

  • Isn’t this screaming out for future job discrimination? Sure, it’s not right to deny someone who is obese a job. But, if you see this level of financial risk, can you really blame them?
  • What if there are complications with the Lap-Band surgery? Is it fair for The Gourmet Pizza to continue paying for a surgery that was needed because of his obesity?
  • Even if you take “fair” out of the equation, just look at the reality of the situation. What kind of financial risk does this cause small businesses moving forward?

I hate to beat a dead horse, but set aside your anger if this seems wrong to you (I, for one, am on that side of the argument). What we need to do is not get bogged down with right or wrong with regards to this man’s obesity, and look at the bigger picture. We are a nation of obese people. There are many reasons for it, and much of it is about taking responsibility for one’s health. Regardless, something has to be done to reverse this course of obesity.

Humor me a metaphor to make my point. If you are on a canoe quickly heading for a waterfall that would plunge you and your fellow passengers to your death, would you argue with a fellow passenger, or would you work together to make sure you don’t fall over that waterfall?

We need to stress preventative measures rather than reactive treatments. Create incentives for people to get healthy. Have them built into our health benefits. Maybe even add financial incentive to reach weight loss goals. That could be a little harry to work out logistically, but you get my point. A healthy employee is a more productive employee.

Sure, you can’t force someone to be healthier. They need to care about themselves more. But the other choice for us might just be the bottom of the waterfall.

(via: Thatsfit.com)

September 23rd, 2009

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PJ

What kills me is, in reading he details of the court's findings, Boston's (the chain restaurant) failed to meet the burden of proof that Childers was obese and had a smoking problem prior to his injury.

Now, according to what I read, he reported and was treated for his injury immediately - one would imagine that to mean the same day. When you go to the ER or Urgent Care clinic, one of the first things they do is obtain your vital signs (weight included) and ask for some history such as smoking, drinking, etc.

Now, I am extremely hard pressed to believe that this fellow managed to gain 150 pounds and acquire a 30 cigarette per day tobacco habit in the car ride on the way to the ER !!!!

The court's decision could truly be problematic for the obese and for the workers' comp industry. One thing to keep in mind is that most injured workers who remain on comp for an extended period of time gain weight due to inactivity. This could easily snowball into a very expensive situation very quickly. Not to mention that gastric bypass is not exactly a "minor surgery".

posted Sep 30th, 2009 4:11 pm



   
 

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