- At the study's highest obesity level, 40 or higher BMI, drivers were 80 percent more likely to perish when compared to more normal-weight drivers.
- Those at the next level, 35 to 39.9 BMI, had a 51 percent more chance of dying.
- Those at the lowest level, BMI of 30 to 34.9, were 21 percent more likely to die.
Obesity -- a growing problem with insurance consequencesThere's little doubt that Americans are getting heftier. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of U.S. adults are considered obese, with about 17 percent of children and adolescents, aged 2 to 12, also fitting the category. (See: " How much can you save on life insurance by losing weight?') A recent Cornell University obesity study found that medical costs tied to obesity are nearly double previous estimates. An obese person incurs medical costs $2,741 higher than someone with a normal weight, according to the study. Nationwide, that translates into $190.2 billion each year, or 20 percent of national health expenditures. Previous estimates indicated that the cost of obesity at $85.7 billion, or 9 percent of national health expenditures, according to the study. (See: " Living large: Obesity health costs surpass those of smoking.") Employers, which shoulder the bulk of health care costs through company insurance plans, are paying attention. Many offer financial rewards for participating in wellness programs, which include weight-loss regimens. And some even penalize workers for avoiding these programs. (See: " 5 ways your boss is downsizing your health insurance.") The 2011-2012 "Staying@Work" survey by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health found that the number of employers providing incentives to join wellness programs climbed by 50 percent from 2009 to 2011. And the survey, which polled 335 midsize and large companies, indicates that four out of five firms plan to offer some type of financial health incentive this year.
As for penalties, the survey showed that the use of them among employers more than doubled from 2009 to 2011, rising from 8 percent to 19 percent. Further, it could double again in 2013 when 38 percent of companies plan to have penalties in place. One of the most common is making smokers pay a higher portion of the health insurance premium. And many employers base rewards on targeted results, such as losing weight or reducing cholesterol and blood sugar levels, rather than simply rewarding participation.