July 14, 1998
Neil E. Hutcher, M.D.
Commonwealth Surgeons, Ltd.
5855 Bremo Road
Richmond, Virginia 23226
Dear Dr. Hutcher:
I am responding to your letter to Attorney General Reno about the coverage of obesity under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Specifically, you have asked if the ADA prohibits employers from providing employee health insurance policies that do not provide for the medical treatment of obesity and related conditions. We apologize for the delay in responding.
The ADA does not identify specific diseases or conditions as disabilities. Instead, the ADA provides that an individual will be considered an individual with a disability for the purpose of ADA coverage if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Federal agency responsible for implementing the employment requirements of the ADA, has determined that an individual who has been diagnosed as having "morbid" obesity may be considered an individual with a disability under the ADA.
The EEOC has also issued interim enforcement guidance on the application of the ADA to employer-provided health insurance. A copy of EEOC's policy statement is enclosed for your information. Because the EEOC has primary jurisdiction over this issue, any further questions on this topic should be addressed to the EEOC through its toll-free ADA technical assistance line (800/669-400 (voice) or 800/669-6820 (TDD).
I hope that this information is helpful to you.
John L. Wodatch
Disability Rights Section