Fleet Management

Expect Big Impact on Workers Comp from Obesity Classification

November 2013, TruckingInfo.com - WebXclusive

by Jodi Mathy, Senior Claims Consultant, HNI

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Fluffy's only claim has been for more to eat. 
Fluffy's only claim has been for more to eat.
The reclassification this summer by the American Medical Association of obesity as “a disease state” effectively declared that one-third of all Americans has a medical condition requiring treatment. The obesity classification will have a tremendous impact on health insurers and workers compensation insurers alike.

In reaction to the change, the California Workers' Compensation Institute studied 1.2 million work comp claims to examine the potential impact of the obesity classification. Claims from 2005 to 2010 that included the co-morbidity of obesity paid losses on average that were 81.3 percent higher than claims without the co-morbidity. These employees also lost 80 percent more time from work than the claimants without the condition.

Other Effects of Obesity Classification

The obesity classification means that doctors now will point out obesity as a condition that needs to be addressed as part of a whole work comp treatment plan. An example of this would be an employee who needs to lose weight before undergoing back surgery.

The obesity reclassification also increases the likelihood that physicians will be compensated for treating obesity. (Smart employers know where this is going!) The reclassification also increases the likelihood that obesity would be included in a doctor's work comp treatment plan.

Obesity as a Compensable Consequence

According to the report, employers also can expect an increase in injured workers who could claim obesity as a compensable consequence of an injury. For instance, if an injured employee gains weight due to a lack of mobility or as a side effect of a medication prescribed during recovery, he may be able to receive treatment for that condition.

This is yet another argument for employers to make a commitment to modified work during the employee’s healing period. Keeping the workforce engaged and mobile will counter some of these unintended outcomes.

The AMA’s decision to reclassify obesity is another reason why employers must commit themselves to wellness strategies that help employees to drop weight and maintain a healthy weight. At HNI, we've encouraged clients to use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's obesity cost calculator to quantify the impact of obesity and to gain support for wellness initiatives or to validate program ROI. The bottom line is that employers will feel the impact of obesity in health insurance costs and workers compensation costs.

This article originally appeared on the HNI blog. Used with permission. HNI is a non-traditional insurance and business advisory firm.


  1. 1. Steve [ November 25, 2013 @ 05:20AM ]

    Shouldn't Worker comp insurance compensate the employee for lost wages and the 100% company paid health insurance policy pay medical claims? Where did the lines get gray'd the workers compensation insurance pay medical? In my opinion, only if the employer does not provide a separate medical insurance plan

  2. 2. Sam Chiodo [ November 30, 2013 @ 07:46AM ]

    Informative and actionable

  3. 3. Bob [ December 15, 2013 @ 04:08AM ]

    Steve I think they are saying if a NON-obese person becomes obese while enduring a long term recovery from a work related accident, then W/C would have to pay. I'm more concerned about how many already obese drivers will be disqualified to drive, but then become qualified for SSI/disability benefits. Some how we will end up paying for it. Every DOT physical I've taken in the last 10 yrs I have had to prove I was NOT obese(5'10"-215ish) but this year I'm thinking I'll just get my disability papers ready for the Dr. signature, and when he denies me I'm going to say O.K. sign here and here and here......

  4. 4. Hardrive [ February 23, 2014 @ 10:59AM ]

    When a worker suffers severe injury, medications prescribed literally are well know to cause weight gain, look up the side -effects of many of the medications, also look up the side effects of injections; I wish I had NEVER allowed the doctor to give me injections, NOT ONLY did my weight bloom out of control, but I developed secondary injuries due to the injections; Beware injured workers, DON'T blindly trust doctors who give injections for pain control; Look up adhesive arachnoiditis; Its incurable and the PAIN is suicidal, I KNOW from experience;


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