Screen-Shot-2014-07-03-at-11.15.02-AM-e1404400533552A first-of-its-kind study examined the structure and controls of employee wellness programs when it comes to addressing America’s costly obesity epidemic, reports Business and Legal Resources.

“The study surveyed more than 5,000 employees who are required to participate in wellness programs to qualify for full health benefits. The investigators found that most employer-sponsored health benefit plans (59 percent) do not cover obesity treatment, even though these same employers commonly set weight, diet, and exercise goals for employees.”

From the authors: “Our study shows how some programs can amount to a subterfuge for discrimination. All too often, a wellness plan that sets weight goals for employees is paired with a health plan that denies coverage for evidence-based obesity treatments. By doing this, an employer risks alienating more than a third of its employees.”

“This study of more than 5,000 employed adults asked about health-related goals set by employers and what treatments their health plan covered. The study reported that 67 percent of employees who must participate in an employer’s wellness plan to get full health coverage are required to meet weight-related wellness goals. And yet 59 percent say their employers offer no coverage for fitness training, registered dietitian counseling, obesity drugs, or bariatric surgery to help achieve a BMI under 25, which is considered healthy.”