Sunday, October 26, 2014

Health Insurance, Big Brother, And you

A little Off Topic, I know; this is a conversation I've found myself getting sucked into more and more lately as my company's health insurance provider is going to be charging a surcharge for not submitting a biometric screening by enrollment.

Usually the Health Insurance conversation with a blogger in my "field" is more related to prescriptions, Doctors vs. Shrinks, and the like.  Not today.  In an expected turn of events, the health insurance provided by my employer has made changes which, in keeping with a long insurance tradition, will provide a way for the insurance money to make a little more money.  But this time, it's not through risk assessment, per se, but rather more like a parent saying to a child "I've had enough".  Health insurance is not cheap.  Not for the insured; and, increasingly, not for the insurer.  More and more people are getting sick, or just simply not taking care of themselves.  "It's rediculous that 'Big Brother' is getting in our business like this'".  

No, not at all.  What's rediculous is that it takes the people who actually make money off you to be the one's driving you to take care of yourself and be aware of what's going right or wrong with your body.  Do you respect your parents?  Because they didn't bring you into this world to have to be babysat all through your life.  They brought you into this world to see you succeed and to be a source of pride.  Do you want to see your grandkids graduate college?  Or even your kids for that matter?  As Americans, we have a hard time admitting we as a country have a problem, and an even harder time doing something about it.  I'm not perfect either, but I am happy that we have to submit our biometric numbers to insurance.  Not only am I glad to not have to pay an extra $600 per year, but also glad to have found out this year, through my anual biometric screening, that I had developed Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.  I am still young (33) and fairly healthy, so I was able to do something about it that did not involve medication, surgery, or death/disability.  I am doing well, and have alterred my diet without having to really stop eating the things I love (with just a few exceptions).  The earlier in life we begin to monitor ourselves, the less we have to be afraid of!  I am the lightest and leanest that I've been in almost a decade (with the exception of being about 5lbs lighter than this for a month or so prior to a major car accident in 2011 which ended up setting me back when it came to having an active lifestyle).  I am active, I have energy to play with my kids, and my mind is sharper than it would potentially be if I were just to sit around and be a vegetable.

so here are a few thoughts on the matter:

The US government has a health initiative called Healthy People, and actually has for several decades, which sets some guidelines for being healthier as a country.  Understanding these guidelines can be the difference between meeting them and decided they are impossible or require too much work.

for example: get 30 min to 1 hr a day of physical activity.  Note, I did not say exercise, I said physical activity, and I didn't say 30 min to an hour all in one shot.  you could get up one morning, spend 15 minutes vacuuming your home in the morning, and then spend 15 minutes washing and putting away your dishes in the evening, and you've met the minimum requirement. 

The idea is not to sit on your ass all day.  Still, some of you might say "nope.  not for me.  I have to work, get kids ready for school, blah blah blah."  Fine, then stand up at work.  Do some squats or lunges or something every hour or so to keep your legs from stiffening up.  I work in a call center, I stand up everytime I get a call, and sit when I'm off the phone.  Simple.  Make enough effort to not be lazy, and the results will happen.  Just don't be lazy.  If you have legitimate health developments which prevent you from a healthy amount of movement, then you're not lazy, don't take offense or think I'm talking about you, unless you also happen to be very lazy in addition to your health impediment.

I digress

The point is that the goverment, the insurance companies, the employers... shouldn't have to coax us into taking care of ourselves.  They do so because they benefit from a healthy work force.  We benefit more from being a healthy workforce, though, and should have enough pride to take care of ourselves.  Educate yourself and put forth some effort.

Finally, the debate always comes down to Principles: They have no right requiring us to provide this information.  It's our business. 

It is a public service to remind us to take care of "our business".  More importantly, they do have every right, as an insurance company, to minimize their exposure to risk and maximize their potential to cover an unknown risk.  Not having/knowing your numbers (Cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, enzymes, etc.) represents an unknown risk.  Now, imagine if everyone who was previously unmotivated to do so, went out to get an anual physical and, say, 20% of them found out they had an elevated risk for something bad.  They are still not being charged the $600, and unless it's something major and/or chronic like diabetes, Cancer, etc., their premium is not going up.  But they now have the opportunity and knowledge to become healthier individuals.  Even if only a percentage of people take advantage of this opportunity to become healthier, there's that percentage of customers who the insurance companies don't have to pay as much for in health costs.  This lowers their costs, which in turn, to a lesser extent, lowers their premiums, and to a greater extent increases their profit.  We see a slight decline in general in the cost of health insurance, and they hire more people and make more profit.  It's win win.  Take that a step further, the less expensive the average customer is to insure, the better equipped those insurance companies are to make insurance for higher risk individuals more affordable.   I understand that it's not that simple, and that in the interest of running a business, prices are not likely to go do, but today's Americans have given the insurance companies an excuse.  Remove that excuse, and create the opportunity for insurers, and thus the opportunity to pressure them politically to lower costs if necessary.  It's a battle that CAN be fought.  The battle for your health and wellbeing CAN be fought.  When you make excuses for yourself to not be healthy, you make excuses for insurers to charge more and create surcharges like this one.  Argue all you want, my point is this.  Take care of yourself.  Instead of complaining about your insurer taking a measure to push you in the right direction, take that push and in turn give them the opportunity to profit and pay it forward in the form of price cuts.

Bottom line: Stop focusing on what "Big Brother" is "forcing" on you, and take it upon yourself to take better care of yourself.  contribute to the solution, because, when you follow the bread crumbs, you are the problem.

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