Obesity and Health Insurance

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Obesity is a serious health concern that not only has physical implications for an individual but also psychological. The highly critical and negative assumptions made by the general public with regards to obesity can have a serious impact on the mental well being of an obese individual. In a society so heavily influenced by body image, being obese can be seen as a serious social handicap. This problem is also accelerated by the growth of social media and the constant need to project a ‘perfect lifestyle’.

With this in mind, it is worth asking the question, what are the determining factors to be defined as obese? The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure commonly used to determine whether an individual is underweight, overweight, obese or an ideal weight. The BMI ratio is calculated using an individuals height, weight, gender and age. It must be noted that BMI can give an inaccurate picture of someones health. For example, BMI does not take into account the fact that muscle weighs more than fat. As a result, someone who exercises regular or is a professional athlete can produce BMI results that would indicate they are overweight or obese.

In relation to health insurance, insurance companies have the decision whether they extend medical cover to obese people. Extending medical insurance to an obese person would come at an extra cost. This is because obese people are exposed to a higher risk of health problems such as high blood pressure or cardiac arrest. This element of extra risk is what triggers the higher premiums, making it more expensive for obese people to take out a policy.

Higher premiums aside, insurance companies may exclude certain illnesses, ailments and complications that are associated with obesity from the scope of their medical coverage. Going down such a path could eventually lead to insurance companies offering the bare minimum cover to obese people. If this were to be the case, obese people may question if there is any point in them taking out medical cover.





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