Unwillingness to Pay for Weight Loss

Optimized-BurnCaloriesA majority of overweight Americans believe that insurance coverage for a specific weight loss benefit would help them, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. Researchers surveyed 600 overweight and obese adults and found that 83% were receptive to some type of benefit like a gym membership or a commercial weight loss program.

Workers have become increasingly more expensive for employers to insure. From 1999 to 2012 health insurance premiums nearly doubled, data from the Kaiser Family Foundation show. In hopes that they see a return on their investment, many companies have started offering wellness benefits to their employees. The study cites a paper that says these benefits might save $3.27 in medical costs for every $1 spent. Additionally, the Affordable Care Act encourages companies to offer wellness programs. However, many aren’t so sure that the benefits to employers and payers are that clear.

“We know that obesity raises health care costs, but what we haven’t shown convincingly over time is the causal effect that providing the benefit to wellness and preventive programs got people to use the benefit, then change their behavior and then save insurers money,” Paul Fishman, Ph.D., told Health Behavior News Service. Fishman is a senior investigator specializing in health services and economics at Group Health Research Institute.

The study called “Insurance Coverage for Weight Loss: Overweight Adults’ Views” also dug a little bit into the question of employees’ opinions on the worth of the benefits. Sixty-six percent of those who said that a wellness benefit would be helpful to them also said that they were unwilling to pay for it. The study didn’t offer any follow-up questions to determine why respondents answered this way.

The authors conclude that if companies offer benefits to promote weight loss, they should offer options that individuals say they find helpful, and companies should also perform outreach to makes sure that workers are utilizing their benefit.

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