Can a Healthier Lifestyle Save You Money on Health Insurance
Guest Blogger: Kevin Murphy
It’s common knowledge that being unhealthy and overweight decreases quality of life. There are obvious detriments to poor health; the less healthy you are, the worse you feel physically and psychologically.
Beyond those basic, broad quality of life issues, there are the ancillary monetary drains as well—the costs of a shifting wardrobe; decreased mental and physical well-being contribute to stress and a compromised immune system, which contributes to more minor (and major) illnesses, resulting in lost time and productivity, etc. However, it’s the immediate and identifiable costs covered here, perhaps the most important of which are health care and insurance. And those cost us all.
Nationally, health issues related to unhealthy living, particularly the obesity epidemic, cost more than $147 billion each year. Health insurance rates have climbed precipitously in the past three years and that’s coming after already unprecedented spikes in premiums. Health insurance rates in 2009 were more than 131% more expensive than they were in 2000! So in a more comprehensive, societal way, getting healthy is an investment for all of us.
Making a comprehensive societal investment doesn’t help you pay the bills at the moment, though, so back to those immediate costs. One of the revisions the “Obamacare” legislation is slated to be enacted is an annulment of the “preexisting condition” limitations imposed by insurance companies. But until 2014, preexisting conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes can make insurance for the average American wage-earner financially prohibitive.
Perhaps the crux of the issue is as follows: even if you’re not tagged with a preexisting condition, for the next few years at least, insurance companies can take your current health into account when assigning a price. If you’re living what they consider an unhealthy lifestyle, they are free to charge you more.
Now let’s say that you’re lucky (or forward-thinking) enough to already have insurance without a preexisting condition or more general health cost hikes but, like so many of us, can’t find the time to exercise much or carefully plan out what you’re going to eat. Even with good insurance, there are myriad costs accompanying preventable poor-health-related conditions. Your co-pay, deductible, prescriptions that either are either partially- or not-covered, office visits, lab tests, perhaps medical equipment peripheral to your condition, etc., all of it can come out of your pocket. Not to mention the time lost to medical visits wrangling prescriptions or durable medical equipment or even the gas money spent on commutes.
Undoubtedly, at some point you’ve heard someone say something like, “There’s no quick fix. The only way to lose weight and stay healthy is eating right and exercise.” There aren’t a lot of generalizations that can be trusted, being generalizations; but that is one that’s pretty much spot on. What isn’t as commonly included is that having the right diet is about 80 percent of the battle, maybe more. Even if you’re one of those people whose friends narrow their eyes at before giving you a moderately bitter variation of “You are so lucky. You can eat whatever you want and not gain a pound. I’d be stick thin if I had your metabolism;” eating right is still enormously important.
In fact, that naturally zippy metabolism can be a curse disguised. Health experts are increasingly encountering the insidious “skinny-fat” phenomenon: naturally skinny people with the vascular and general internal health profile of the heavier, older and less healthy-looking. Culturally, we’ve become so used to health being reflected by superficially identifiable weight ratios, the thin are often considered healthy by default (even by themselves).
The benefits of a healthy lifestyle in all their permutations – quality of life, financial, etc – are too diverse to list here, obviously, but those provided are a good start. So for the monetary, emotional, and physical health of our nation and individually, cut the junk food, the processed food, smoking, and excess drinking. Eat more vegetables, fruit, natural grains, and lower-fat meats. A good rule to abide by is if your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize a food item, don’t eat it! Take time to exercise and you’ll thank yourself for it and so will your wallet, purse, or pocket. Good luck and good health.
About the Author
Kevin Murphy is a former insurance industry professional living in Australia. When he’s not cruising in his boat in the waters of the South Pacific, he blogs about health insurance for Frank Health Insurance.