Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

If a health insurance provider penalizes a person for smoking, shouldn't they penalize overweight people too?

Asked by Dutchess_III (27494 points ) December 4th, 2011

In January our insurance premiums will go up by $100 a month because both Rick and I smoke. I’m OK with it because it is my choice to smoke, and I’m aware that I’m putting myself at risk for certain problems. But why just penalize smokers? Why not other groups who make choices that puts them a risk for health problems, such as overweight people?

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87 Answers

zensky's avatar

Isn’t that their business? Are you concerned the fat people aren’t paying enough – or that the poor insurance carriers aren’t making enough money?

The important thing is that this is but one more reason to QUIT SMOKING. It’s disgusting and unhealthy, smelly and unattractive. I won’t even date a woman who smokes. I don’t like kissing ashtrays and envisioning the black lungs and emphysema.

I think people who smoke should be taxed silly – and they should be allowed to smoke in the privacy of their homes only – and that is if they have no children.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@zensky…that answer had nothing to do with the reasoning behind the insurance providers increasing the premiums. It has nothing to do with being attractive. It has to do with putting your health at risk. Being obese also puts people at health risks, so why not tax them? They’re a drain on the economy too, and usually develop health issues at a much younger age than smokers.

zensky's avatar

Actually it did. Like I said, albeit cynically, are you concerned the insurance carriers don’t know how to make as much money as they possibly can? If they could – they would.

Dutchess_III's avatar

So why can’t they penalize people who are a certain percentage over their optimum weight, @zensky?

ddude1116's avatar

There are many more factors to being overweight than just eating too much. It may not be someone’s choice to be fat, it’s just the hand they’re dealt. And then you’ve got the fat people who are fat because they can only afford cheap fast food, and not the healthier, more expensive food that’s not just lard and salt, but I’ve met overweight people who are in incredible shape, exercise and eat well, but are still overweight because it’s just how they are built. So basically, it’s too difficult to distinguish whether someone’s overweight because they’re gluttonous or because they legitimately can’t avoid it. Smoking, on the other hand, is a fully conscious decision, and on top of that, harms others aside from themselves. Second-hand smoke is horrible for the people around smokers, but second-hand obesity is only harmful as an eyesore.

zensky's avatar

Ask them. But quit smoking – fat people don’t bother me – but smokers pollute my air.

filmfann's avatar

Fat people drop dead. Smokers linger undergoing expensive cancer treatments.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@zensky I understand what you’re saying, but it’s not answering the question.

I have never, ever met a fat person who didn’t over eat, @ddude1116. If that was a valid argument then you’d have fat people in Somalia. We don’t. We’ve gone over and over this question. It has nothing to do with being poor. I’ve BEEN poor. I had several hundred dollars a month in food stamps. It never caused me to eat crap food or to overeat.

@filmfann They don’t all drop dead. What about diabetes and heart problems in fat people? What about the drain on society when fat people get disability because they’re too fat to work? Not only that, overweight people tend to develop those issues at a younger age than smokers develop their health issues.

zensky's avatar

@ddude1116 I loled at second hand obesity.

linguaphile's avatar

@ddude1116 You said it very well. I also know overweight people who can run marathons and when I was a “overweight” 145 pound athlete in college, I could out-run, out-jump and out-stretch all of the other skinny minnies in my class. One of them wanted to be skinny so bad she lived (literally) on ham slices and rice krispy bars and had a cholesterol level of 275+ when she was 25 years old. Another lived on raw mushrooms.

So, weight is only one predictor of health. Lack of education, on the other hand, is probably a more accurate predictor, if you think about it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You guys…plenty of smokers never develop health issues beyond, obviously, shortness of breath.

ddude1116's avatar

@Dutchess_III There are certain people who are too proud to get food stamps and would rather eat the shit off of McDonald’s value menu. I didn’t mean every poor person, just some, and maybe being too proud to get food stamps is an illegitimate reason, but my point was, there are many more factors than just being overweight and it’s difficult to specify the exact reason somebody is overweight. And, yes, some smokers never develop health issues, but some do; my grandmother smoked most of her life and never had any problems from it, but my grandfather smoked just as much and died from emphysema. Smoking is more easily targeted than obesity for smoking can only be a choice somebody make, whereas obesity isn’t necessarily a choice, and that’s why insurance agencies are targeting it.
@linguaphile Exactly! Genetics play such a huge part in it, it’s just absurd.

linguaphile's avatar

@Dutchess_III I agree, some smokers never develop health issues, but what’s the percentage? That might apply to extremely obese people, too. By extremely obese, I mean those unable to move around because of their weight.

However, right now the insurance companies and government are using a generic numeric calculator- the BMI- which has way too many exceptions to be reliable and I shudder at the thought of them using the BMI to penalize people, especially to penalize for genetic predispositions. It’s not reliable enough—there are too many factors that determine health—lack of exercise, lack of emotional outlets, lack nutritious choices (try finding good fruit and veggies in Montana 6 months out of the year), etc.

I fear, given too much power, they will start penalizing genetic predispositions. Some are already claiming pre-exisiting condition coverage rejections on babies who developed disabilities in-utero, like Tay-Sachs.

That being said—I hate insurance companies even though I have to use them. I agree with a billboard I saw recently: “Insurance Companies are the New Death Squad.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

People are obese because they eat a whole lot more than they need to stay alive. End of story. If genetics play a part in it (which I don’t believe) then the person makes a choice to not compensate for that. If genetics had something to do with it, then you would see obese people in starving countries. You don’t.

Also, it’s a helluva lot cheaper to eat food at home than at McDonalds or any other restaurant. When I was poor I NEVER ate out.

It’s all about choices. I work with overweight people. They have food stashed everywhere.

Blackberry's avatar

Or even better, penalize everyone for not being a well-tuned athlete.

cazzie's avatar

I used to work for an insurance company, processing insurance proposals. Weight WAS a question asked, as well as questions that put the person at risk of contracting AIDS, as well ask ‘do you smoke’ and ‘what is your monthly alcohol consumption’, and what risky sports they took part in. All reasonable questions to ascertain the risk.

zensky's avatar

Fat people who also smoke should just be shot.

ddude1116's avatar

@Dutchess_III You don’t see obese people in starving countries because their only options are going hungry, going slightly less hungry or not being alive. Also, their choices of food are different.

And yeah, there are fat people who are fat for eating too much, but that’s far from the only cause. But as far as eating in is concerned, there’s still a lot of unhealthy food you’re meant to eat at home, just look at ramen noodles, for instance.

You also have to consider there are a lot of less obvious alternatives to all of the cheap, unhealthy food most people don’t realize exist which could be the solution to this entirely. It’s possible to eat very well on a dangerously low budget, but it does take effort and it does take cleverness.
@zensky Or they could be put in a room filled with the smoke of hundreds of thousands of cigarettes and be forced to endure it incessantly for three weeks, at which point, if they’re still alive, they’re given a grand feast where only the fruits and vegetables are edible, the rest of the food is poisoned.

zensky's avatar

Fat people who smoke near me bring out my inner Lord of the Flies.

SavoirFaire's avatar

In the US, several insurance companies do charge more for health insurance if you are overweight. Also, life insurance has long been either more expensive or unobtainable for those who are overweight (depending on how overweight they are). This was in the news a bit four years ago. Research also shows that overweight people are paid less than their peers, whereas smokers are not. This means that, on average, overweight people have less money with which to pay for insurance in the first place.

As for the causes of obesity, the science shows that it is more complicated than “they eat too much.” That’s part of it in many cases, but not everything. Moreover, comparing those who are overweight with those who are starving rests on a false equivalence. Here is something obviously true: if you stop eating altogether, you will lose weight. This is true even if you have a genetically inherited thyroid problem. Unfortunately, it is not necessarily the case that you will lose fat (or at least, that you will lose fat prior to losing more important tissues).

So while it is certainly possibly to decrease one’s weight through severe dieting, that doesn’t mean it will be healthy to do so. You could end up with all sorts of other problems that might even result in getting you dropped from your insurance. Severe dieting causes mental problems along the lines of those characteristic of those who suffer from anorexia nervosa, for instance, which are far worse than having a little extra meat on your bones. Anyone interested in this area of research should start with the Minnesota Starvation Experiment run by Ancel Keys and work forward from there.

Finally, I’d like to point out that most people have very strange ideas of where normal/healthy ends and overweight/obese beings. A healthy weight for your frame is different from a healthy weight for my frame. As such, exact body shape is a poor guide to deciding whether or not one is healthy or obese. A larger man or woman may be in perfectly good shape despite weighing more than someone else and even having a bit more fat than someone else. Health is a notoriously specific quality of a person. I’m not suggesting that anyone has said otherwise here, but it is always good to just put this point out there.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@ddude1116 Every single overweight person I know, and it’s impossible not to know several, choose to eat too much. Every. Single. One. They “choose” to put their health at risk, just like smokers do. I know of obese people who are now on disability strictly because of their weight.

cazzie's avatar

I think people who do the severe dieting and limit their caloric intake aren’t going to live longer in the end, but it will certainly feel like it.

cazzie's avatar

I have a brother who is well overweight and has had trouble with his feet and back for over 2 decades. He does NOT get the correlation between what he puts in his gob and the size of his gut. He quit smoking and one of those ‘holier than thou’ quitters, but now he is smoking again and I just smirk… (being the ONLY one in my family who never smoked and is disgusted by the habit.)

Dutchess_III's avatar

And @SavoirFaire I’m not talking about mildly overweight people. I’m talking about FAT people. As many as there are around today, you’d think the insurance companies could make a killing. Their doctor, of all people, would know of the reasons they are overweight. If they do have some sort of imaginary issue that causes them to become obese on a 1500-a-day calorie intake, and they aren’t at risk for any health issues because of it, then the doctor could note that for insurance purposes.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@cazzie severe dieting is stupid. Dieting period is stupid.
Does your brother work, @cazzie?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Dutchess_III I used “overweight” as a catchall term. Obese people are also overweight, after all, and “fat” is an unscientific term that says more about the person using it as a label than it does about the person being labeled. Nor am I talking about a genetic disorder that carries absolutely no health risks. I’m talking about a genetic disorder that one might have through no fault of one’s own. Those clearly exist, and so would not be properly called “imaginary.”

Regardless, I wasn’t responding to you or anyone. I was putting basic facts about dietary science out there for whoever might be interested. The issue is more complicated than some people are aware, and it is my view that being informed is generally a good prerequisite for being opinionated.

Response moderated
cazzie's avatar

@Dutchess_III No, he’s been out of work for a while, despite having two full millright qualifications.

cockswain's avatar

TLDR.

This isn’t a simple answer because some people are obese through no true fault of their own. But most obese people are. I take good care of myself by working out a lot and eating right. I don’t want to see insurance companies raise rates on the obese just to make more money, but if they raised their rates and lowered those for people that exercise, don’t smoke, don’t drink excessively, and eat right, then I’m fine with that.

whitetigress's avatar

You have a great point. However, a smoker can say, “I quit.” And that’s so subjective to the point of when have you quit? Did you quit just today? Did you quit when you walked into this office? On the other hand, a fat person would be forced to pay premiums for up to months! You can’t just quit being fat in a day or a minute. So I like your point, but there is a huge grey area. Perhaps they enforce the rules. Anyhow why are you trying to drag others down with you? This “if I can’t get away with it, why should they get away with it” attitude is truly a childish conclusion.

cazzie's avatar

If you lie on your insurance papers, you will not be covered for an illness that is caused by the thing you lied about. If you say you drink moderately, and you get alcohol related cirrhosis of the liver, they can refuse to pay out your life insurance… etc…

Dutchess_III's avatar

@whitetigress Read the details. I didn’t say anything close to if “I can’t get away with it, why should they get away with it.” I said I understand the logic behind the insurance company’s policy. I don’t dispute it. But it isn’t really logical to target one group of people over another group of people, who put also themselves at risk.

Also, it would be reasonable for an insurance company to wait at least a year before reducing an ex-smokers premium, for lots of reasons. One would be to be sure that they really quit.

@All who are saying people can become obese on a normal diet of, say, 1500 – 2000 calories a day. Can you provide some proof of that? @SavoirFaire…you accuse me of ignoring “facts.” You haven’t provided any facts.

ddude1116's avatar

@Dutchess_III Well, I know very few people who are overweight because they overeat; most of them are just genetically unfortunate and the rest are foolish.

wonderingwhy's avatar

In general costs such as this restrict personal choice and freedom in a way I’m not particularly comfortable with – perhaps because it’s being carried out for the benefit of a corporation. As a member of society I don’t particularly want to foot (even part of) the bill for some smokers lung cancer treatment or some overweight persons heart attack but I’d rather accept that as the price of greater personal choice than save a few bucks a month. So in answer to your question, no they shouldn’t. I say that also on the grounds of I don’t believe insurance companies should be in the business of influencing/dictating individuals choice (particularly through negative reinforcement).

Specifically to being overweight, where do you draw the line and what measure do you use. People can be pretty heavy and still be pretty physically fit which begs the question of how do we define healthy physical specimen vs not and at what point on the scale do we say you over here pay more while you over there don’t. Is it really necessary (so much to the benefit of society that the individuals right to choose is overridden) to draw that line at all – to me it’s not.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Dutchess_III People with problems with their thyroid hormones tend to have a lot of trouble with weight gain and difficulty losing weight. For those people, even once they are on medication and get their thyroid hormones within a normal range, many of them still have a difficult time with weight loss. I’ve seen it with many people that have hypothyroidism.

Smoking is a choice, obesity is not always a choice. Yes, some people over eat, but not everyone does.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You know, I have heard that “It’s not always their fault they’re obese” argument for years now. Yet I have yet to see one single reputable source (or even unreputable source) that bears this out. Not one. Why is that? I hear a lot of overweight people say, “I just don’t eat that much!”....but they do, whether they realize it or not. Someone denying that they eat enough to become obese is NOT scientific proof.

@ddude1116 Can you tell me exactly how most of the people you know that are overweight through no fault of their own? Specifics? I find it odd, as ALL of the people I know that are overweight are that way because they eat too much. I see them. They eat all the time. They stash food in their cars, in their desks. They never miss a meal. They talk about food all the time. They talk about what they had for lunch and what they’re going to have for dinner. They eat more at one meal than I do in an entire day. How is that not their fault? How is that not their choice?

Mariah's avatar

Don’t they penalize obesity?

cazzie's avatar

Look, I have one of those thyroid diseases! I couldn’t get health insurance in the US if I begged and crawled on broken glass. I’m the opposite of the ones suffering with the weight gain problem. I would never let them burn out my thyroid, so I tend to run hyper and have no weight problems, but I know many many people with slow thyroids or almost none at all because of the procedure they were given and they CAN’T shake the weight gain they experience, no matter how much synthroid they take. There is no full substitute in a pill for the hormonal function of your thyroid. I’m afraid these people put on weight as a result and it is NOT because they suddenly become cupboard lovers, but it is because of a severe and sudden change in their metabolism.

@Dutchess_III if you look up information on Graves disease and what they do to those patients, and what hypothyroidism is, you will be given the ‘reputable sources’ that you require.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Aren’t there drugs to control hyperthyroidism? Also, if it changes their metabolism, can’t they change their eating habits to compensate?

This was interesting.

You know, before an insurance company makes those kinds of sweeping generalizations they should be required to get a note from the doctor. If a person smokes 5 cigarettes a day, they are no where near as at risk as a person who smokes two or three packs a day.
The same should be given to overweight people…a physician can say, “This person is overweight because of water retention due to medications. They do not have the same risks as a person who is overweight due to excess fat.”

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Dutchess_III I haven’t accused you of anything, but I have given you facts. If you’d like documentation of them, start at the place to which I directed you: the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

Dutchess_III's avatar

This is strange. I looked up Hyperthyroidism… according to Wiki weight LOSS is a major symptom. Same with Graves Disease. No where in either article, that I saw, did it mention weight gain…?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Dutchess_III Weight gain is associated with hypothyroidism. It’s basically the opposite of hperthyroidism. Yes, there are medications to help with maintaining “normal” thyroid levels in the body, but they don’t fix everything and sometimes require a lot of adjustments before finding the right level for the person taking the medication.

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK @SavoirFaire I looked. I don’t see how it is relevant. It said starving people get pretty crazy acting.

cazzie's avatar

Like I said, Dutchess, the drugs aren’t a full replacement. Imagine you had absolutely no energy in your body. Just getting up and walking to the bathroom winded the hell out of you. This can go on for weeks before medications even kick in a little. You also do not poo because your system is simply not working. Hypothyroidism is a crippling problem. You eat because you are hungry, but there is no burning of calories of any sort and it is simply stored. Most people can plateau and loose a bit of weight. They don’t end up really obese, like can’t-leave-the-bed obese, but they certainly go up two dress sizes or so.

It’s the TREATMENT of the hyperthyroidism. You need the full story. The treatment of hyperthyroid is to burn out the thyroid with radioactive iodine, thus leaving the patient hypOthyroid, with little or no thyroid left. It is barbaric and I won’t have it done. But I feel really bad for the people who just blindly listened to their doctor and had it done and now are pretty much lethargic, fatter, sadder people because of it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Thanks @Seaofclouds…I looked it up. The conclusion, from the Mayo Clinic said it was pretty easy to treat.

Mariah's avatar

Like almost all diseases, I’m sure some cases are easy to treat and others are harder.

Dances_with_Werewolves's avatar

@Dutchess_III The first page you linked to (this one) supports what everybody is trying to tell you: obesity is more complex than “they eat to much” (even though calories in must be lower than calories out, there’s more to it than that, which is what you’ve already been told). Then @cazzie told you about her hypothyroidism and you looked up hyperthyroidism instead as if that would be relevant. Then you looked up the Wikipedia page on the Minnesota Starvation Experiment instead of the actual experiment (interesting blog post about it here by the way). It really does look like you just want confirmation of what you already think. I think @zensky was right: the insurance companies can take care of themselves. If their actuarial tables told them they should charge more for obesity, they would (and they do, according to @SavoirFaire, which I was able to confirm via Google).

So what is this really about—resentment over being asked to take the consequences for your choices?

YARNLADY's avatar

I believe insurance companies set rates based on actuarial analysis plus the market comparison. If they could or needed to charge more, they would.

cockswain's avatar

@cazzie Are you saying that most obesity is caused by disease? Because my understanding is that is simply not the case, even though there is a percentage of the population for which is is true.

Dutchess_III's avatar

A disease that is pretty easily controlled at that.

cockswain's avatar

@Dutchess_III I don’t think these diseases are easily controlled or always properly diagnosed. I know people with thyroid disorders, and getting the medication correct can be a huge hassle. Particularly if you don’t kill the thyroid.

cazzie's avatar

Dutchess, some cases are not so easily controlled, and if you have never been part of a support group for those affected or had first had knowledge of it, I would refrain from making generalisations based on skimming over a brief written on a clinic’s website.

cazzie's avatar

No, @cockswain, particularly if they DO kill the thyroid. They kill the thyroid and it no longer produces the hormones the body needs and you gain weight and loose energy.

I have Graves disease and I take anti-thyroid tables for it to quiet down the hormone production, but it varies greatly, like some diabetics. During times of stress, my thyroid acts up more, and the meds don’t kick in right away, so I look a wee bit shaky and sweating and hungry.

What the doctors have been trying to do since I got this is to burn out my thyroid with radio active iodine. This destroys the thyroid, for the most part as it is not an exact science. Then, they don’t give you any medication until the system has ‘settled’ down. I’ve known people who had this procedure and they liken it to going through some sort of hell. It can take months to rebalance the metabolism so that you can function like a human being again and work an 8 hour day.

I choose the tablets and it is against current medical advice. It freaks my current doctor and I refuse to see the specialist here because he wanted to rip my baby away from me when he was 4 weeks old and make me do this procedure, after I had very happily been treated by another specialist with the tablets with the most success, having even gone into remission. The truth of the matter is they just don’t know enough about the endocrine system, which slows down as we age anyway, so the chances are, when I hit menopause, I will go into permanent remission with my Graves disease. No doctor can give me a good enough reason to have my thyroid burned out with radio active shit. Ironically, if I did have the treatment, I would not only have this thyroid disease, but I would, no doubt, put on weight and go up a few dress sizes and become a seriously sad person and be a worse insurance risk.

cockswain's avatar

@cazzie But if you kill the thyroid, can’t you regulate the metabolism more easily with medication?

cockswain's avatar

Your edit made my question look stupid.

cazzie's avatar

They try to, @cockswain, but it is a very very poor substitute for the real thing. They do replace some of the hormone but not all. They think they are fixing the problem, and in some cases it does work, but I’ve known far too many people come out miserable because of the procedure.

cazzie's avatar

No it didn’t. ... I realised that it needed a much bigger explanation because there was some obvious misconceptions about the disease and it’s treatment. Sorry if it made your question look stupid. I have been dealing with this disease since 1996.

cockswain's avatar

Stupid was too strong a word, sorry. Just looked like I hadn’t read it thoroughly, as I wouldn’t have asked that particular question.

I know someone who was advised to have her thyroid killed, but she just had a sulfite allergy. She figured it out on her own and it solved her problems.

Someone else I know has Grave’s and Hashimoto’s at the same time. One slows her metabolism, the other speeds it. Not easy to treat.

cazzie's avatar

There is no cure. I wish they knew how to get rid of the anti-globulins…. and the rest…that cause auto-immune diseases, but as long as doctors and patiences ‘settle’ with the crap treatments currently offered, no one is going to look for a cure. steps off her soapbox

cazzie's avatar

Getting back to the argument at hand about insurance rates, Doctors expect people who quit smoking to gain weight, but they have done the math on it and the weight gain risks are far far less a danger to your health than smoking. So, a bit of fat, far less dangerous than sucking poisons into your body. Seems very logical to me.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m not talking about a “bit” of fat, @cazzie. I’m talking about obesity. A “bit” of smoking won’t hurt either.

Yeah, I gained about 20 pounds after I quit smoking. It took about a couple of years to bring everything back under control, and get down to where I was before I quit. I quit for 8 years. Dumbest thing I EVER did was to start back up. : (

I’m not the one saying it’s easy to control @cockswain. I was repeating what I read here from the Mayo clinic. It said women over 50 are the ones most likely to suffer from hypothyroidism.

cockswain's avatar

I guess the key is the statement “once the proper dosage is established.” But I’m not going to argue with them. I’m not an expert in the matter, I just know a bit from people I know that have dealt with/deal with hyper or hypo thyroidism.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t think I’ve ever known someone with that problem. As far as insurance purposes, perhaps that could exempt them from higher premiums then.

bkcunningham's avatar

@Dutchess_III, I have a friend now who is three years away from being old enough to draw Social Security benefits. Her husband retired and they paid COBRA for their insurance for about six months until he was old enough to draw his SS. She has been told by insurance companies she is overweight and uninsurable. She doesn’t have any health problems and takes no meds.

She is 4 feet 11 inches tall and weighs about 160 pounds. She is a vegetarian, doesn’t smoke and walks 18 holes of golf every day. Now tell me, is that fair?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, she could develop those problems because of her weight. That’s the insurance company’s line for upping the premiums for smokers—the problems that we could develop. I don’t have a beef with that. So, yes. It’s fair.

bkcunningham's avatar

She could develop what problems? I’m sorry, you lost me.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, etc. Those problems that overweight people are prone to, that some don’t get. Just like some smokers don’t develop a disease because of their smoking.

bkcunningham's avatar

LOL, oh okay. I get you. I don’t think of her as overweight. She’s solid as a rock and healthy as a horse. For the record, I agree with you about the smoking thing @Dutchess_III. If we are going to be “fair” and spread the burden, people who have been in treatment for depression or any other mental illness should have higher premiums because of the risks they pose to developing sedentary lifestyles and other unhealthy factors associated with their illness. As well as anyone who works in the sex industry or has been treated for any STD or had an unwanted pregnancy. Their prior behavior shows sign of expensive risk taking lifestyle. I could go on and on. But of course, if it is a behavior you have, it isn’t fair. If it is a behavior I have and you don’t like, it sucks to be me.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Dutchess_III My baby was born with congenital hypothyroidism. He started taking Synthroid before he was even a month old. He has to have blood tests done every 2 months now to be sure his levels are correct. He used to have blood tests done every 2 weeks. We have to watch him for excessive weight gain, which is really hard in newborns. He has already quadrupled his birth weight and he’s only 6 months old. Some of his weight gain is most likely from his hypothyroidism, especially since he didn’t eat much in the beginning. There is a chance that his hypothyroidism is only transient because of being premature. But, if it’s not, he’ll have to deal with this for the rest of his life. He’ll have to learn about foods and medications that can interact with his Synthroid and continue getting routine lab work to be sure he is at a proper level of medication for his needs.

Rarebear's avatar

Its a question of life insurance actuarial tables. Smokers have a predictable higher morbidity and mortality, while obesity leads to more heterogeneous outcomes.

perspicacious's avatar

They should not be allowed to penalize anyone for anything such as smoking or obesity. It’s absurd.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Sure they should @perspicacious. I don’t have a quarrel with that.
Speak English @Rarebear! What soes a more “heterogeneous outcome” mean?

@Seaofclouds I am not arguing that some people do have medical issues that preclude weight gain. But most overweight people are just overweight because they eat too much, by choice.

cazzie's avatar

Right, as opposed to homogeneous.. like what they do to milk to get the fat not floating on the top. Overweight people get many different sorts of things wrong, while smokers meet more predictable diseases and causes of death.

‘A little’ smoking is bad for you. A little wine or a few extra pounds isn’t. They never ask a smoker ‘how much do you smoke a day’, but they did ask back in my day of processing insurance proposals, ‘if you drink, what is your monthly intake.’

(and I think you were trying to say that there were no medical conditions you ever came across that proved it caused weight gain, @Dutchess_III, so I really did feel the need to explain what thyroid disease can do to a person.)

@perspicacious is either completly missing a clue or they are being faciscious. No idea.

jca's avatar

There are also cases where someone may not be able to exercise as vigorously (or at all) due to a physical limitation or disability, such as a broken ankle, torn ligaments, disease (heart problem, which could be congenital, for example Downs Syndrome), etc. That person may be overweight, in part, due to the disability or disease. Who or what would determine the breakdown of how much of their obesity is due to food and how much is due to the disability? It’s a gray area, where as smoking is black and white.

Mariah's avatar

^ Good point.

I’ll add, I’ve had to take prednisone, a steroid, at a few points in my life; once while on it I gained 30 pounds in a month. Yes, a pound a day. It gives you a voracious appetite that is damn near impossible to control, and it increases water retention so you gain a lot of “water weight.” I’m skinny but after that experience I could never judge someone for being overweight.

cockswain's avatar

Look at obesity rates by nation.

We eat too much, even though disease/disability can cause weight gain.

Mariah's avatar

@cockswain Of course, not everybody’s, probably not even a majority’s, obesity is caused by diseases. Some people in this thread seem to be implying that NOBODY’S is, though, which is ridiculous. You just can’t judge an entire group like that.

cazzie's avatar

So, over-weight/obesity is sometimes (most times, I think we can agree..) by sticking too much food in your mouth and swallowing. Smoking is caused by putting cigarettes in your mouth and sucking in the addictive poisons. Hmmm.. Pot meet kettle. Notice the similarities in colour you both share.

linguaphile's avatar

I was thinking about what @Dutchess_III said and had a thought. I’m not for-sure on this, it’s just a thought I’m tossing out…

With money, we mostly agree that you should live within your means, and we all know that not everyone has the same income or expenses. When you don’t live within your means or within a reasonable range of financial use, you’re going to get a really bad credit score. Some people get bad credit scores from unforeseen circumstances, some from really bad management decisions.

NOW… not everyone is good at management- it’s an executive function that many people struggle with and people who are good at management scoff and say, “It’s not that hard! You Just Have To Try!” (of course it’s not that hard, they’re able to do it. Let every single one of us firmly hit that ball with that bat right now, this very minute, why don’t we? Skills are not homogenous!)

Let’s say calories are like money, except… whew, they’re much less tangible and visible. All of us have a threshold in which our calorie consumption will make us obese and some have much higher thresholds than others. You can’t tell me the Scandinavians I’m living around here in Minnesota who can eat a lot and stay reasonably skinny are the same as, say, someone of Hopi descent. Some people just have more “food-money” available to them than others.

The problem, I think, is some of us don’t want to eat within our genetic calorie limitations (i.e. our means), especially when others can eat more and stay skinny. Or, some of us might not be completely realistic about our individual limitations and think we can get away with more than we can (like overspending on a credit card?). Then some of us get really obese (bad credit score) and some are from bad choices, others from circumstances.

Then there are the people for whom genetics have blessed, or people who find staying healthy to be an easy task. They’re busy telling the rest of the world, (scoffing) “It’s not that hard!” Well, for some people it IS hard and probably next to impossible. Plus… calories and nutrition are not as tangible as money.

Just a thought….

bkcunningham's avatar

@Dutchess_III, I thought about you this evening and I must tell you something that just happened to me. I was standing on a sidewalk outside a business waiting on my husband. A very petite, beautiful woman, I found out later is 70 years old, came outside on the sidewalk where I was standing. We smiled at each other and she lit up a cig and stood there near me to smoke.

She didn’t look a day over 50 from where I was standing and the thing I loved about her was her thick grey hair. It was cut so stylish and set off her brown eyes. When I looked at her closely, I could see lots of wrinkles on her face, but she was so beautiful.

She turned around and held out her hand with a pack of blue Parliament cigerettes. “Here. I want you to take these and my lighter,” she said. The look on my face must have conveyed my puzzlement. She said, “Please, take these. I have to quit smoking. This is going to be my last one. I’m having surgery at the end of the week. Please.”

I reached out and put that pack of Parliaments in my purse. I stood there a second and didn’t know what to say so I asked her what kind of surgery she is having. She said she had a double mastectomy a few months ago. She has to have work done on the reconstruction of her breasts.

She kept saying that she knew she shouldn’t smoke, but her nerves were on edge and she swore that was her last cigerette. It did something to me inside and I immediately thought about you and Rick and your post about your premiums going up. I dunno why, I just wanted to tell you my strange encounter.

Rarebear's avatar

Seriously though, my opinion is that morbid obesity should cause an increase of insurance premiums.

ddude1116's avatar

@Dutchess_III I don’t understand it; they’re just extremely fit and haven’t lost any weight.

jca's avatar

Instead of punishing people for smoking or being heavy, why not reward people for quitting smoking or for losing weight? That way, there’s nothing punitive, but there is an incentive for doing well.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@jca That’s a cool idea….but it would require the insurance companies to act like human beings instead of the money pit machine that they are.

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