Concord Monitor ran an article today about Sen. Bob Clegg and how he's recently started to slim down. It's great to hear that he is beginning to focus on his health but in doing so he's put up a bill to require insurance companies to cover obesity surgeries such as the one he recently had. Sorry but this is a case of good intentions leading to bad results.
For starters it's fixing a problem that doesn't really exist in that in NH only Cigna doesn't cover the procedure in every one of its plans so the other insurance companies already cover it.
The article in the Monitor points out that his surgery cost $20,000. So if we force insurance companies to pay for that we open the door to force them to pay for other procedures we see as important. Where exactly will the money to cover it come from? With the growing number of obese people in this country more and more people will opt to get the treatment putting more and more burden on the insurance companies, this will result in higher insurance rates for those of us who stay healthy and don't need the surgery in the first place.
Let's for sake of argument say that this procedure will save 10% of those getting it from having more serious heart problems later on in life. And let's say those heart problems cost an average of $40,000 in medical procedures per person depending on the problem. So if 200 people get the surgery at $20,000 that's 48 million. 10% would be 20 people and the savings would be only $800,000 which is far less then the $8 million paid up front. That means the $7.2 million additional spent money would come from our insurance payments making it more expensive for all of us.
Now if it can be argued that the $8 million results in a savings of $20 million, well now it would make economic sense for the insurance companies to do it because they would pay out less in the long run and it would make sense for us because our rates could then go down. But if that were the case there would be no need for the government to strong arm the companies in the first case (which based on the fact only 1 company doesn't cover it, may already be the case).
That all said though, lets look deeper at the underlying problem here. The cost of obesity in this country takes its tolls in other ways as well. The town of Gilmanton are currently looking to spend $15,812 for new equipment because their current equipment is not deemed suitable for those over 300 pounds.
Tim McGinley, Concords acting fire chief points out the following in the article linked below:
"People who are overweight also suffer from heart disease, breathing difficulties," he said. "We've adapted as much as we can equipment-wise."
So as more and more Americans pack on those extra pounds eating twinkiees and getting their meals biggie sized the cost of their health care continues to rise. As a result we simply shift that cost to the rest of us who do control our weight and eat healthier.
What's the answer? Do we get the government to reward those who pack on the pounds in the first place by paying for surgery to correct their self inflicted problem? Do we punish those who stay healthy by giving them the choice of either paying for more expensive medical equipment to handle obese people or pay for the surgery to correct their problems?
Maybe we need to look to get this country back into the idea of self accountability.