Overweight and obese people can face a litany of health challenges. As a result, finding good and affordable healthcare coverage is often difficult because many insurance providers view them as high-risk clients. Many are denied certain types of coverage and the policies that are available are typically very expensive due to the variety of health issues and increased costs of care for treating individuals with obesity related diseases and symptoms.
The price of coverage for an obese person can become even more burdensome if their condition is due in part to a disability which might also leave them underemployed or unemployed. In order to navigate this troublesome dilemma, let’s examine the magnitude of the problem and discuss some of the options that are available to overweight and obese individuals who wish to apply for coverage without paying exorbitant prices.
The Determining Factors
When you apply for health coverage, you are asked for your height and weight. With those two determinants, insurance company underwriters can conclude if you are overweight or obese through body mass index (BMI). The higher your BMI, the more likely your insurance premiums will rise.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an adult with a BMI of 25 to 29 is classified as being overweight, anyone with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese. As of 2012, 35.1% of Americans age 20 or older were overweight with a staggering 69.0% showing rates of obesity. The numbers are even more serious for children and adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 as 20.5% were counted as obese. Younger children between the ages of 2 and 11 came in at around 26%.
These are troubling statistics and they stem from a variety of causes, many of which are factored into the premiums of an insurance policy for an overweight applicant. Genetics is one component that can lead to becoming overweight, often as a result of gene disorders such as Bardet-Biedl syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome, both of which also bring with them a list of other health problems.
In addition, a number of other diseases can play a role such as severe depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, all contributing to the overall health of the patient and factored into the pricing equation for coverage.
Insurance companies consider overweight and obese applicants as high risk because of the increasing amount of health issues that people struggling with their weight tend to suffer from regularly. These various maladies cover a wide spectrum of health concerns, all of which are serious and become greater threats if an individual does not lose weight, or worse, continues to gain weight.
Coronary heart disease is the most prevalent among these dangers, followed by high cholesterol, arthritis, hypertension, respiratory issues, diabetes, and stroke. Since all of these health risks are routinely common in overweight and obese individuals, the insurance companies will likely charge more for coverage.
There are other barriers as well, particularly for people who are considered “morbidly” obese, weighing in excess of over 300 pounds. Some medical facilities just aren’t equipped to handle people of this size and may not have specialty equipment like weigh scales, examination tables, hospital beds, and wheelchairs adequate to support obese patients properly.
This isn’t to suggest that all overweight people are sick; many of them are healthy and show no signs of major physical medical problems. But the insurance companies consider overweight applicants as presenting increased risk because they are more likely to develop serious medical issues than individuals with a lower BMI.
With all of these factors at play, overweight applicants may feel like they are out of luck with finding affordable healthcare solutions. But there are some viable choices that exist, many of which are tailor-made for individuals who are dealing with weight problems that are no fault of their own.
A good place to begin is by identifying the various underwriter guidelines at the major insurance companies. The standards vary among them, each with different underwriting protocols defining body mass index eligibility. If you don’t qualify with one provider, try another. You may find one willing to offer affordable coverage more readily than the next.
In the event you still have a tough time qualifying for a reasonably priced policy with the major carriers, there are a variety of independent health plans that do not take an applicant’s weight into consideration for eligibility nor charge higher rates to insure overweight individuals. There are, however, some varied drawbacks to these types of coverages depending upon the company you’ve chosen. In many cases, these include higher deductibles aimed at reducing monthly premium costs, limited coverage terms from six months to three years, re-application requirements, and limited availability in certain states across the country.
Make a Change
For those applicants who aren’t dealing with genetic disorders or other diseases that are greatly contributing to their obesity, making some lifestyle changes can go a long way to not only improving your overall health, but also your chances of finding affordable healthcare coverage.
With most overweight individuals paying premiums of up to 30-50% more than others in their age groups, it makes more sense than ever to adopt healthier eating and exercise routines. However, don’t go on a crash diet to lose weight fast just to get health coverage, as rapid weight loss that is not under the supervision of a doctor can be dangerous. But cutting certain unhealthy foods out of your diet and following an exercise regimen to get in shape are both smart choices for promoting better health.
Dropping the fatty foods with empty calories, unhealthy starches and sugars in favor of nutrient rich fruits and vegetables is a great way to get started. Getting more exercise will also prove beneficial. Take a walk, go for a run and think about how you can get more exercise in your everyday routine, while doing the things you normally do.
The changes you make now will go a long way to your overall well-being later down the road and your body, not to mention your wallet, will thank you for making the change.