State using tax money to pay for weight loss surgeries | People
SOUTH CAROLINA (WBTV) - Obesity in South Carolina is a growing problem, but as lawmakers try to encourage better health - they are facing a backlash from a controversial new idea. Legislators are using $2.4 million in tax money to pay for 100 people to have a weight loss surgery.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30-percent of adults in South Carolina are considered obese. To add to that number - South Carolina ranks as the fifth heaviest state in the country
The South Carolina Department Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) says obesity rates have doubled in South Carolina since the 1990’s. Lawmakers say the weight problem is costing the state money.
“Heath Care is probably one of the biggest expenditures we have,” said State Representative Gary Simrill. Simrill says South Carolina spends $1 billion yearly on obesity related health problems.
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“We want to promote healthier living because we know healthy living, in the long, run saves money,” said Simrill.
So in August - the state decided to pay for 100 state employees to get lap band surgery at $24,000 dollars a person. Not everyone thinks it’s a great money saving idea
“There are tons of other things our tax money can be going to outside of $24,000 a person for gastric bypass surgery,” said Aaron Resler, a Rock Hill resident.
Simrill says the issue is a catch-22. The state wants healthier employees; however, he says the state has a $830 million budget deficit. Simrill feels there could be a cheaper way around the issue.
“We need to educate our employees about healthier living,” said Simrill “Would it not be better to put a person on a regimen, just like you see TV shows, where they try and make that person lead a healthier life style.”
Resler agrees there is a cheaper way to get state employees healthier than spending $2.4 million dollars.
“It’s ridiculous you’ve got tons of places you can go around here gyms, the YMCA, the spending is out the roof, and they can simply go there or the park for nothing.”
The lap band surgery is 'first come, first serve' for the 100 employees that qualify. The first surgery starts this month.
One South Carolina senator suggested adding $25 extra fee on obese workers premiums, opposed to paying for lap band surgery. South Carolina already charges $25 extra on premiums for state employees that are smokers.