Obesity Problems and Workers’ Compensation

The obesity epidemic in this country presents difficult workers compensation challenges.  Obese claimants often miss more work days than healthy-weight co-workers with similar injuries.  In addition, research indicates obese workers are likely to have higher medical costs and are more likely to become permanently disabled.

 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults and children remained steady in 2009-2010 compared with 2007-2009.  Some 37.5% of adults and nearly 17% of those up to age 19 were obese.”  For adults, a body mass index (“BMI”) between 25 and 29.9 is overweight, while a BMI of 30 or higher is obese.

 Obesity increases the risk of co-morbid conditions which include hypertension, diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease and cancer.  These conditions complicate workers compensation cases, making it increasingly difficult for doctors to help workers achieve medical improvement.  Doctors may recommend weight-loss programs or surgery, which can prolong the case.  In addition, the additional costs may be passed on to the workers compensation claim.

 Statistically, “obese workers file twice the number of workers comp claims as their counterparts.  Their costs were seven times higher and they missed 13 times more days of work due to their injuries than did employees who were not obese.”

 From Business Insurance, March 5, 2012 issue, pp. 1 and 21.