SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Insuring Good Health vs. Health Insurance
By Rob Holston


April 20, 2006

Lately I've written about how you can insure having good health. There is nothing too controversial about improving your diet and getting some exercise to lower your body fat percentage, balance your blood sugars, lower your blood pressure, increase the quality of your life and extend your longevity. Many of the lifestyle changes I've recommended in past articles are not controversial, but a challenge nonetheless. Insuring improved health by following the guidelines I've recommended is a guarantee. Health insurance, on the other hand lends itself to some criticism seldom discussed. Caution, this may be controversial.

First let's examine a premise about car insurance. Costs are directly associated with risks. #1.Young inexperienced drivers are required to pay more than older, careful drivers. #2. If you have three cars to insure, it's going to cost more than one car. #3. If you carry full coverage, it will cost you more than minimum liability. We find the same principle in life insurance. If you list mountain climbing, motorcycles, skydiving and scuba as your four most common pastimes, you're going to pay more than if you list tennis, pool, bingo and walks on the beach. If your lifestyle choices place you in categories of higher risk, then you can expect to pay more for your car insurance or life insurance.

Don't expect your neighbors, your co-workers or your government to help you pay for these increased insurance costs because you and your lifestyle choices have increased your risks. It seems to me unfair, but that is exactly what we expect of our neighbors, co-workers and government when it comes to health insurance.

When I worked for the local school district, every year or so we teachers would be negotiating for a cost of living raise or even sometimes a real raise to gain a little on the cost of living. One of the primary reasons we were barely able to negotiate low single digit raises was the fact that health care insurance costs were increasing at a double digit pace. In my way of thinking I felt that my income was being compromised by the system's inability to make those individuals with high risks pay a higher share of the insurance bill themselves, than those of us with lower risks.

I was paying for couch potatoes to be couch potatoes. I was paying for the lady down the hall to feed herself and her family pig pizza* instead of fruits and veggies. I was paying for everybody who skipped breakfast instead of eating a balanced meal of whole grain bread and cereals with fresh fruit to start their day. I was paying for some of my co-workers to over indulge in fast food, alcohol, coffee, diet sodas, salt, fat, candy, and a variety of high-risk foods and activities or inactivity. I would like you to now re-read this paragraph and notice it is dominated by the word "I", a lot of I's. Please replace the I's with society. It is society that is now paying for the huge costs of healthcare because of many, many, many individual's daily lifestyle choices that drive them and their children into sickness and disease.

With health care costs soaring, our society is paying. You are paying, your neighbors are paying, your co-workers are paying and your government is paying.

As soon as the system rewards individuals and families who lower their insurance risks, i.e. "get healthy" with lower insurance costs, then many will turn to healthy lifestyle alternatives. Likewise, those with high risk factors should pay for each higher risk category. Sorry, you fail the treadmill test, your rates go up. You fail the mandatory drug test, your rates go up. You fail the obesity test, your rates go up. You want to smoke cigarettes? Fine! Add 50% to your insurance costs. Why should everyone else pay for your unhealthy habit?

I realize that this opinion may not be popular so let me clarify one point. I am NOT saying that those with diagnosed genetic traits that may increase their health risks should pay extra for those particular risks, but simply put, the health insurance industry needs to get a handle on health risks that ARE controllable and reward those who lower those risks while assessing those who don't. This will be one step towards serious encouragement of good health and lower health insurance costs in this country.

Poor health, rising health care costs and affordable health insurance have converged at this point in our history. It is time that we seriously consider some controversial alternatives. Excuse me now, my wife is calling me to dinner. Veggie pizza, I hope!

*Pig Pizza: ham, bacon, pepperoni & sausage "Some folks idea of a balanced diet."



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Rob is a retired teacher and a resident of Ketchikan, Alaska. He is not a health care professional but has an interest in health and fitness.
Contact Rob at holston[at]

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