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News Stories

AMA Reclassification of Obesity Can Affect Worker’s Compensation Claims

In June, the American Medical Association reclassified obesity as a disease. Proponents of the change argued that the reclassification will provide doctors with the incentive to take the disease seriously and focus more attention on diagnosing and treating obesity, according to The New York Times.

The change was nearly a decade in the making. Language was removed from the Medicare coverage manual in 2004 stating that obesity did not meet the definition of a disease. Prior to that, the IRS changed its rules to allow tax deductions for certain weight-loss treatments. In 2008, the Obesity Society and other health care advocates authored a paper embracing the need for change.

While the focus of the reclassification has been on the treatment of those diagnosed as obese, the shift could have implications for those filing workers’ compensation claims. According to the Sacramento Business Journal, obesity was previously regarded as a condition “independent of a work injury or illness” for workers’ compensation purposes and factored into very few claims. A 2011 survey of 20,000 claims in California revealed that 28 percent of the claimants regarded themselves as obese; yet the condition was treated less than one percent of the time.

Now, doctors may be more inclined to treat obesity as part of a person’s overall recovery after an injury on-the-job. Critics of the decision argue the classification will cause the number of claims to rise sharply and increase costs. But advocates note that treating obesity can improve a person’s overall health and lead to greater productivity in the workplace. If you have additional questions, or think you may have a case, reach out to our Orange County workers’ compensation lawyers.


According to the Mayo Clinic, a person’s body mass index, which is calculated by dividing weight by height, is considered normal in the range of 18.5 to 24.9. An individual is diagnosed as obese when his or her BMI is 30 or higher.

In addition to a reduction in quality of life and physical problems, obesity can lead to a number of medical problems, including:

  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease

While some people are genetically predisposed to obesity, the Mayo Clinic notes that inactivity, diet, family lifestyle, medications and lack of sleep can all contribute to a person’s weight and BMI.


When a person is injured on-the-job, getting treatment is a priority; but immediate medical care may only be part of the recovery process, ongoing treatment and therapy may be part of that course as well. After a work-related injury it is important to work with an experienced Orange County personal injury attorney who can help make sure you get the resources you need to fully recover and get back to work.