(10/24/2009)
Overweight state workers in the Mountain State could start paying more for health insurance.

Gov. Joe Manchin is urging the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency's Finance Board to seek public comment on the idea.

Director Ted Cheatham said the governor is interested in finding ways to promote healthier lifestyles to control health-care costs, based on a movement in North Carolina, a state that will be charging more to overweight holders.

Cheatham said higher premiums could encourage workers to lose weight.

PEIA already charges smokers $25 more a month than non-smokers.

The PEIA Finance Board voted to put a similar option out for public comment during PEIA hearings around the state next month.

Cheatham said the proposal raises a fundamental issue of whether persons who are at higher risk because of unhealthy lifestyles should pay more for their health insurance.

Cheatham said "If you've got a BMI (body mass index) over 40, we know you're going to cost us $26,000 more over your lifetime."

"The stick works better than the carrot," he said.

"It's going to be extremely difficult. It's going to be, Big Brother's watching you over the long-term," Cheatham concluded.


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