An insurance company recently forced fat customers to choose between paying up to 20 percent more for health insurance (up to $2,000 a year) or exercising more and having their movement electronically monitored. A study was just released touting the “success” of this program because “After one year, nearly 97 percent of the enrollees had met or exceeded the average goal of 5,000 steps a day – including the most resistant participants who disagreed with the financial incentives and found the program “coercive.” They concluded that “Wellness interventions like this clearly hold significant promise for encouraging physical activity among adults who are obese.”
How fucked up is this? Let me count some of the ways.
First of all, even if it was ok to coerce people into physical activity for the sake of insurance premiums (and I’m going to say that it’s not, but that’s another blog post) it’s absolutely not ok for this to only be applied based on people’s physical appearance. If you’re an employee who is fat then it doesn’t matter if you run marathons in your free time, your physical activity has to be monitored by a pedometer connected to the internet or you have to pay 20% more than your completely sedentary but not fat coworkers. If they are going to do this then the 20% discount (or, as I like to call it, 20% penalty) should be applied to everyone.
They don’t appear to have tracked these employees’ physical activity to begin with. When they claim success, they are assuming that fat people didn’t walk the 5,000 steps before. You can do that, but you shouldn’t call it research or science, you should call it bigotry because that’s what it is.
Exceptions were allowed if people got a doctor’s note. Thank the gods that doctors are so careful to listen to what their fat patients are telling them and give them what they need. What’s that you say? It’s not opposite day? Oh, in that case you’re probably screwed in the doctor’s note department.
The suggestion is that this needs to be done to save health care costs though health changes. They admit that they don’t have any idea if this will lead to either. The study’s lead author states “Comprehensive evaluations are needed to determine whether participation in these programs translates to meaningful changes in health and costs of health care.” So let me guess this straight, fat people are being forced to either pay 20% more than thin people or have their activity electronically monitored, and that program was implemented BEFORE anybody even bothered to see if it will have any benefits?
Let’s just get super clear – we have reached the point where it is acceptable to people to say: if you look like this, then you have to submit to electronic monitoring or pay more for insurance than people who don’t look like that.
People who are ok with this because it’s only happening to fatties should really think again. Not getting enough sleep is seriously detrimental to health – what happens when employees are told that they can either wear sleep monitors to assure that they are getting enough sleep or pay $2,000 more? What about twice daily breathalyzers to make sure that an employee isn’t drinking too much? Tests for nicotine? How much electronic monitoring are you willing to submit to based on the guess that it will in some vague way save someone money?
People still scoff at the idea that fat rights activism is necessary – I imagine those are the people who aren’t asked to pay up or submit to electronic monitoring.
Pssst! This is super secret – tomorrow I’m going to be launching the fundraising for my new project – In Our Own Words – A Fat Activist History. If you want to be ahead of the curve, you can check it out (and maybe even support it?!) today: http://www.gofundme.com/InOurOwnWords
Like the blog? Here’s more of my stuff:
Become a member: Keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details
The Book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details
Dance Classes: Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details