Follow the money: why fat people cost so much

Dateline: Sun 01 Jul 2007

The Star has a credible, balanced front page story today on the changes at Clarian Health: "As waists expand, paychecks may shrink."

As was reported on this blog first, Clarian is going to fine its workers for bad habits and bad scores: $5 for smokers, $5 for bad cholesterol; $5 for high blood sugar; $5 for soaring blood pressure; and $10 if someone's body mass index is more than 30.

OK, it's just so: Hoosiers are too fat and smoke too much. So is Clarian being proactive and a good steward for its workers by making the porkies and the puffers fess up? Maybe it would be easier to answer that affirmatively if McDonald's wasn't part of the Clarian food network, or high-sugar soft drinks sold in the vending machine.

The real issue is money -- isn't it always? Clarian cares, because its pocketbook is pinching.

Here's an excerpt from the recent Clarian newsletter; this article ran next to the one about charging fat people, smokers, etc. for their insurance. It speaks for itself:

"Nationally, the health care industry is facing a general overall decline in then number of patients in hospitals-a drop in patient volume, as well as escalating health care costs, an increase in the number of competitors and niche providers, and changes in the health insurance industry.

"While Clarian's financial performance is strong and patient volume is up system-wide, the downtown hospitals mirror the national trend of declining patient volume. Their volume also is impacted by some patients seeking treatment at Clarian North and Clarian West medical centers, and by physician retirement and attrition.

"To maintain financial strength in this health care environment, operational budget targets must be adjusted, says (Sam) Odle, (Clarian CEO).

"We've been financially viable, buoyed by the success of our investments," he says, "To remain financially strong, we have to adjust our budget and immediately focus on increasing patient volume and reducing expenses."

OPERATIONAL BUDGET TARGETS MUST BE ADJUSTED is code for "we're going to stick it to the fatties, the smokers and the unhealthy."

As Barb Berggoetz and Daniel Lee of the Star noted with quotes, what Clarian is doing is cutting-edge; the company is taking an aggressive step to improve employee health. But is it because Clarian loves its workers so much? Or is it because they want the $$?

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