The American Medical Association (AMA) has approved a resolution reclassifying obesity as a “Disease state.” This AMA resolution is the equivalent of declaring that almost one third of all Americans suffer from a medical condition that requires treatment.
A recent report conducted by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) attempts to quantify the potential impact of this reclassification on future workers’ compensation costs. The study was based upon 1.2 million workers’ compensation claims in California from 2005 to 2010. The conclusion of the study is that paid losses on claims with obesity as a co-morbidity averaged $116,437, or 81.3% more than those without obesity as a co-morbidity. The claims involving obesity averaged about 35 weeks of lost time, or 80% more than the 19-week average for claims without obesity.
Many workers’ compensation experts believe that this new classification will open the “floodgates” for claims that include obesity as a co-morbidity and increase the claims in which the injured worker claims that obesity was a result of the injury and should be compensable. Additionally, medical providers will have a greater responsibility to treat obese patients and they will be much more likely to treat them knowing the potential for being paid for this treatment, as indicated in the report.
In the past, obesity has been classified as a condition that occurs at the same time of an injury or illness, but has always been considered independent and not the actual cause of the claim. The reclassification of obesity as a “disease state” will likely lead to an increase in claims involving obesity and a rise in costs for employers.
Tom Murphy is a workers’ compensation and medical malpractice insurance specialist agent with Danna-Gracey. He can be reached at or (800) 966-2120 or Murphy@dannagracey.com.