by Michael Memberg, Esq.

A recent NCCI case study shows that obese workers can take up to four times longer to recover and require four times the number of treatments as non-obese workers. Obese workers have other health conditions and co-morbidities that slow recovery and return to work. There are steps employers can take before injuries occur to improve employee health and wellness, including incentives for participation in smoking cessation and weight-loss programs. Such program can help reduce the cost of workers’ compensation claims, as well as overall healthcare.

However, once an employee is injured, information about potential co-morbidities—in particular, obesity—can help mitigate future medical costs. By obtaining height and weight information during the first contact with an injured worker, the adjuster can get a head start on identifying obesity and other potential weight-related health conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, which are unrelated to the underlying claim but may increase the expense regardless. For example, if obesity is identified up front, the injured worker can be directed toward weight-loss programs which could reduce the time and expense of the claim.