North Carolina will implement a ‘fat tax’ on its government workers starting in July 2011, making workers that qualify as “obese” pay more for health insurance, and the tax has been hit with much controversy.
North Carolina officials say that the tax will help government workers become healthier, saving money in medical expenses. As obesity is one of the leading causes of death in the state, one of the main goals of the tax is to get these government employees healthier, while saving state money in the process.
Beginning in January, nurses will test state workers for weight, body mass index, blood pressure, and cholesterol. If a worker’s numbers put him or her into a “risk category,” an extra 25 dollars a month will be added to his or her health insurance costs. People put into the risk category can waive these extra fees by attending a health screening.
However, most Americans are against North Carolina’s ‘fat tax’ plan. In a telephone survey conducted by The Rasmussen Reports of 1,000 Americans, 63% said they do not support the plan. 30% of Americans supported it, while 7% were unsure.
Louise Fussell, staff member at Leesville High School, said, “I think it [the fat tax] is terrible – people can’t always control that.” When asked if she thought it would encourage people to get healthier, Fussell replied, “Maybe, but there’s no way of knowing that.”
Many people believe that instead of penalizing unhealthy or obese workers, the state should reward workers who have a healthy lifestyle. Some feel that workers with gym memberships, no history of tobacco use, or health literacy should receive monetary incentives for their efforts to lead a healthy life, as opposed to punishing those who choose not to.
Others, including Kim Martin of Salisbury, NC, feel that people who are overweight should be given financial help towards a gym membership or exercise plan as an incentive to get healthy, instead of being punished for being obese.
North Carolina is only the second state to put a ‘fat tax’ plan into play, so there is no data on whether or not it actually improves workers’ health and lifestyle choices.
The plan also includes higher health insurance costs for smokers and tobacco users, beginning in July 2010.