The single most important thing we can do to encourage healthy living is change the health care insurance model. We need to take personal responsibility for our health, and we need health insurance that allows us, not our employers, to choose and purchase our health care plans.
Yes, I think we should have to pay for our own health insurance, hopefully with rebates or credits from our employer. But we would be covered when we are between jobs, and it would reduce or even eliminate the need for the government-sponsored COBRA.
Since I can’t change the health care industry, let’s talk about the things we can change, as employers and as individuals.
Health insurance companies already offer classes and seminars about healthy living. Some companies subsidize gym memberships, install exercise rooms, create wellness programs, and offer health care flexible spending accounts. There are numerous government programs to help you quit smoking, get free prenatal care, and lose weight.
Here are a few more ideas to encourage healthy living:
* Focus on winning health, not losing weight. In his book “A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington (and a Trillion That We Don’t!)” (2011), TV host and former governor Mike Huckabee believes that we need to change the way we talk about health. Americans don’t like to lose and aren’t motivated by getting less of something. So instead of losing weight, reducing fat, and lowering our blood pressure, we need to win health, add muscle, and gain a healthy blood pressure.
* Offer premium rebates for healthy living. For example, Safeway’s voluntary Healthy Measures program (launched in 2008) offers health insurance premium rebates for no tobacco use, a healthy weight range, and normal blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels. Guess what – it’s working! Safeway reports that 43% of participants who did not qualify for a 2009 blood pressure discount improved and received a rebate in 2010; and 17% of participants who did not qualify for a 2009 BMI (Body Mass Index) discount improved by at least 10% and received a rebate in 2010.
* Offer lower co-pays and deductibles for healthy living. Nationwide Insurance offers drivers a “Vanishing Deductible” that lowers your deductible for each year of safe driving. Similarly, health insurance companies could offer lower co-pays for doctor visits and lower deductibles for out-of-pocket expenses, if people maintain a healthy lifestyle and a healthy weight.
I think that individual ownership of health care is the answer, not government-run health care. What do you think?