AL Extends Health Care Surcharge to Crack Down on Obesity

September 5, 2008 ( - Beginning in 2010, Alabama will start charging all of its employees an extra $25 per month for health insurance.

The fee is part of a controversial new program designed to reduce health care costs and encourage a healthy workforce. Workers can avoid the fee by getting a check up at an in-office wellness center where nurses will check for diabetes and hypertension; and measure blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose levels and Body Mass Index (BMI), according to a Fox News report.

Workers who “flunk” the BMI exam will be required to see a doctor and will have to show proof of their attempt to lose weight to avoid the surcharge. Workers who refuse to get the check-up will have to pay the $25 regardless of their fit level.

“There are folks walking around with diabetes and hypertension that don’t even know it, and it’s just a matter of time before something catastrophic happens to them,” William Ashmore, executive director of the Alabama State Employees’ Insurance Board, said in the news report. “If we can get people to manage their health, we’ll have healthier employees and less health care costs.”

Critics say Alabama’s program borders on discrimination by using obesity, which is medically categorized as a disease, as its benchmark.

Alabama already charges smokers a monthly fee, as do a number of other states (See Peach State Slaps on $40 Employee Smoking Surcharge ).