New Weight Loss Plan: Drop Your Health Insurance?


On Monday, Jacob Sullum noted an article about new Health Affairs study that found that "the annual medical burden of obesity has risen to almost 10 percent of all medical spending and could amount to $147 billion per year in 2008."

Combating obesity, and the mounting expenses associated with it, has risen to prominence as a chief goal of health-care reformers looking to bring down spending on medical care. At the same time, those same reformers also tend to see universal health insurance as an important goal. 

But those aims may not exactly work in hand in hand. A new study shows a positive correlation between having health insurance and being overweight. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Americans who have health insurance, either private or public, are more likely to gain weight or become obese, wrote authors Jay Bhattacharyaand Kate Bundorf from Stanford University, Noemi Pace from University College Londonand Neeraj Sood from the RAND Corporation. According to the paper, which estimates weight gain in terms of body mass index, a measure of weight related to height, "private insurance increases BMI by 1.3 points and public insurance increases BMI by 2.1 points."

…Though the study found weak evidence that more generous insurance encourages greater weight gain, or that risk-adjusted premiums discourage it, there was "strong" statistical evidence that being insured increases body mass index and obesity.

Read Reason's past coverage of the politics of obesity