Paying people to lose weight?

Feeling sorry for the big bad insurance companies?  Is this even possible?

Let me explain.

We stayed at a national hotel chain this weekend.  I am fairly sure that the free food and sugary drinks they routinely supply, are on-the-whole a profitable venture, but on a microeconomic scale such was not likely the case this past Saturday night in Cincy.

The 5-7:30 evening buffet was a feeding frenzy, orders of magnitude worse than the free donut melee at morning reports in residency training.

All who choose to look, see this oft repeated truism: present humans with free food and they will behave as if they are crossing a desert the next morning.  And, combine this innate mammalian behavior with the present-day sea of easily accessible food and the absence of any need for personal accountability, and voila, you have the essence of the obesity problem.

I know, it is not politically correct to say such, but now there is more evidence that obesity is not insurmountable; if only people adhere to the simple plan.

How?

You pay them.

As published in the most recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a carefully controlled randomized clinical trial showed that if you provide motivated obese women nutritious food and counseling free of charge, and then reimburse them for completing follow-up visits they will successfully shed pounds.

So it can be done.  At least in this study obesity was not ‘glandular,’ or hopeless, or even surgical.  The solution was simple—just get on the plan.  At least this is how masters of the obvious would editorialize the results.

However, the more progressive-minded from Ivy league think-tanks suggest that since this trial was so successful, perhaps insurance companies should consider paying for Jenny Craig-like programs.  As said by Brown Univeristy PhD, Rena Wing, in an accompanying editorial:

Currently, insurance companies will often cover the cost of bariatric surgery for obesity (estimated at $19 000-$29 000 per patient from insurance reimbursement data19) but do not cover the cost of commercial weight loss programs (such as that evaluated in this study, with estimated costs of approximately $1600 for 12 weeks of the program and for food). Providing commercial weight loss programs free of charge to participants might be a worthwhile health care investment.

These days, insurance companies rarely find sympathizers.  But forcing them to pay people to eat well?

Enough said.

No meanness here.

JMM

3 comments

  1. I have always thought that paying for prevention methods would be cheaper for insurance agencies than paying for damage control. Example: when I was pregnant my insurance company wouldn't pay for a $50 prenatal vitamin that had a vanilla essence (cheaper ones caused unpleasant burping, morning sickness,& resulted in throwing up the vitamin). BUT, if my child was born with spina bifida (due to NOT taking a prenatal vitamin), insurance company would fork out thousands for post natal surgeries, meds, etc. Go figure???

    However, more on your point, those of us who fight impulse eating and turn away bad foods when we really DO WANT TO EAT THEM, and we stay healthy, why wouldn't we get a discount, too? 😉

  2. As with any diet scheme I am sure even the $$$ incentive will fall short and people will come tumbling off the back of the wagon, breaking stuff due to their temporary loss of body cushioning.
    As stated here before, educating our young and developing good eating habits from the start will lead to true, long lasting success.

  3. Ok, I understand that there is no meaness intended. But there is a vast misunderstanding. There is a big difference between the insurance company paying for the program and them paying for the food. Even with programs like Jenny Craig and Nutra-system the cost of the program is differentiated from the cost of the food. The company that I work for is self insured and will pay for a smoking cessation course called "Free and Clear" but not for Weight Watchers. Considering that obesity has a genetic aspect and smoking is completely a voluntary decision, it really baffles me. If I could lose weight on my own, I certainly would have already achieved that. The only thing I've accomplished in 25 years since I started putting on weight is yo-yo dieting, and I have tried all of the diets.

Comments are closed.