Change Your Lifestyle to Make Health Insurance Affordable
Most employers begin open enrollment for next year’s health insurance in October, but you can start planning now for the best coverage at the lowest possible cost. One very important step you can take toward affordable health insurance is to take charge of your health and reduce your overall risk of chronic disease.
Almost all insurance premiums are set on the basis of risk versus benefit. The higher the health risk of an insurance policy holder means that the insurance company is at a greater risk of a business financial loss. If there is a greater chance for you to file insurance claims over the course of the year because of a preventable health condition, the insurance company will likely charge more in order to balance the budget.
Goals that help to make health insurance affordable
The first goal for making health insurance more affordable is to quit smoking. A recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 5% of companies charge more in health insurance premiums for smokers because they run a greater risk of making insurance claims. The AMPMInsure community has found that smoking costs up to $75 billion each year in direct medical expenses. Each year, more than $3400 is spent in health insurance coverage per smoker.
Smoking is linked to many chronic health conditions, most notably cancer. Smokers die an average of 13 to 14 years earlier due to cancer of the bladder, esophagus, larynx, lung, mouth and throat. Smoking Is also linked to chronic heart and cardiovascular disease, reproductive problems, abdominal aortic aneurysm, cataracts, periodontitis, and pneumonia.
The second goal for reducing the cost of insurance premiums is to reach and maintain an ideal body weight. Many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, are on the rise in the United States due to the obesity epidemic. Some companies are charging obese policy holders more for health insurance because the health care costs associated with treating conditions related to obesity are between 29% and 117% greater than those of a normal weight. Obesity-related health care costs are around $147 billion – about $1429 dollars per person per year.
If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease, taking charge of controllable factors related to the disease process can save money in prescription and doctor costs. For example, consuming a healthy low-glycemic diet and exercising regularly can bring blood sugar levels to normal, decreasing the need for expensive medications. You also reduce the chances of developing a co-morbid condition, such as kidney disease or eye disease.
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) signed in March, employers can offer increased incentives to employees for participation in a wellness program or for meeting certain health status targets beginning in 2014. Grants will be available to small businesses beginning in 2011 for providing comprehensive workplace wellness programs that include health education, preventive screenings and health risk assessments.
Some companies are already offering similar incentives to employees. For example, employees at Crown Equipment Corp of New Breman OH can cut insurance premiums by up to $360 annually if they undergo a short health-risk appraisal and meet with a health coach at least once. Dell Computer employees have a similar program called “Well at Dell” where employees can earn $78 each year for completing an online health assessment and up to $225 more if they join and surpass one of the goals of a company wellness program. In both cases, incentives are available for spouses and children of the employee as well.
In most cases, taking control of your health through diet, exercise, and smoking cessation costs very little, but the rewards are great – both physically and fiscally.