Insurance Coverage for Weight Loss

Overweight Adults' Views


      Given the prevalence of obesity and associated chronic conditions among U.S. adults, wellness benefits are an increasingly popular approach to promoting weight loss.


      The goal of the study was to assess overweight and obese adults' beliefs about the helpfulness of insurance coverage of weight loss–related benefits, their willingness to pay for such benefits, and whether these opinions differ by individuals' weight or health insurance type.


      A national survey was fielded in 2012 among non-pregnant, overweight, and obese adults who had seen a primary care provider in the past year (n=600). Descriptive statistics summarized beliefs about which weight loss–related benefits would be helpful, willingness to pay for such benefits, and agreement about whether health insurers should be able to charge more to obese individuals. Multivariable logistic regression was employed to determine whether beliefs differed by weight category or health insurance type. Analyses were conducted in July 2012.


      The majority (83%) of respondents cited a specific benefit as helpful. Those with private health insurance had a higher probability (89%, 95% CI=86%, 93%) of endorsing any benefit as helpful relative to those with other types of health insurance. Being obese relative to overweight was associated with greater support (57% vs 39%, p<0.05) for preventing health insurers from charging higher premiums to obese individuals.


      In this sample of overweight adults, a large proportion endorsed the value of weight loss–related benefits offered by health plans. However, only about one third were willing to pay extra for them, and half disagreed with the notion that health plans should charge more to obese individuals. Given evidence of their effectiveness, wellness benefits should be offered to all individuals.
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