Magazine article Risk Management

Obesity Court: Several Courts Have Ruled That Employers Must Pay for Obesity-Related Surgery

Magazine article Risk Management

Obesity Court: Several Courts Have Ruled That Employers Must Pay for Obesity-Related Surgery

Article excerpt

In July, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that the costs of treating obesity-related disease may have climbed as high as $147 billion in 2008--almost 10% of all total U.S. medical costs. The study found that costs had nearly doubled in only 10 years, and with the prevalence of obesity increasing 37% between 1998 and 2006, costs are only expected to rise.

For some companies, these costs ate manifesting themselves in unanticipated ways. Two recent court decisions have found employers to be responsible for paying for weight-loss surgeries in addition to the medical expenses related to a workplace injury. In Indiana, after Adam Childers, a 340-pound cook at Boston's Gourmet Pizza, suffered a back injury from being struck by a freezer door, doctors determined that he would need lap-band surgery in order to lose weight before undergoing a back operation. His employer balked at having to pay for the $25,000 surgery since Childers' obesity was a pre-existing condition. But courts ruled that his weight and the accident combined to create a single injury and, therefore, the employer had to pick up the tab.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

According to Childers' attorney, this case was not without precedent. …

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