Twitter

BlogAds

Recent Comments

Label Cloud

Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Saturday, July 29, 2006

A BIG problem with health insurance

by Stephen Paske

In all the talk about the need for health-care reform, I've noticed that many times people forget to mention a BIG part of the health-care problem, and one that is growing, OBESITY. Consider this snipit from a June article from U.S.A. Today:

Private health insurance spending on illnesses related to obesity has increased more than tenfold since 1987, according to the first research to quantify the trend.
The growth in obesity has fueled a dramatic increase in the amount spent treating diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and other weight-related illnesses, says the study, which is published today in Health Affairs, an online journal of health policy and research.
Overall, employers and privately insured families spent $36.5 billion on obesity-linked illnesses in 2002, up from an inflation-adjusted $3.6 billion in 1987. That's up from 2% of total health care spending on obesity in 1987 to 11.6% in 2002, the latest year for which data are available.
On average, treating an obese person cost $1,244 more in 2002 than treating a healthy-weight person did. In 1987, the gap was $272. Private health insurance spending on illnesses related to obesity has increased more than tenfold since 1987, according to the first research to quantify the trend.
The growth in obesity has fueled a dramatic increase in the amount spent treating diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and other weight-related illnesses, says the study, which is published today in Health Affairs, an online journal of health policy and research.
Overall, employers and privately insured families spent $36.5 billion on obesity-linked illnesses in 2002, up from an inflation-adjusted $3.6 billion in 1987. That's up from 2% of total health care spending on obesity in 1987 to 11.6% in 2002, the latest year for which data are available.
On average, treating an obese person cost $1,244 more in 2002 than treating a healthy-weight person did. In 1987, the gap was $272.

Here's the million dollar question for me. If I have an accident, I pay more for Auto Insurance. If I smoke, I pay more for life insurance. If I build a house on a flood plain, I pay more for fire/flood insurance. Why don't I pay more as an individual for health insurance if every third meal of mine includes a Big Mac and a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese? According to this article it costs $1,244 more to treat an obese person (I'm presuming annually) than a person my weight, yet if I have typical private sector plan I'm paying the same deductable and same premium.

Now certainly there are exceptions. There are thyroid and gland problems that are a medically sound cause for obesity. But in over 90% of cases, the real problem is that American's choose not live healthy. We talk about going after the companies, we talk about a more socialized approach, but how come nobody ever talks about waging a serious battle against the epidemic of obesity in this country?

Quite frankly I think that one way to ultimately lower health-care costs in this country would be to offer incentives for people to live healthy, and to punish those who never watch what they eat. At least then the cost of treatment would be more fair for those who have healthy lifestyles when they do have a health-care need. Why not incorportate some sort of tax that goes to a health-care slush fund each time somebody purchases a quarter pounder with cheese? And why not a tax credit of some sort for anyone that registered and had a finishing time for a local 5K road race, or for someone who logs an hour at the gym three times a week.

I think a lot more people would actually use those gym memberships if everytime they logged an hour at the club they got $5 back. And if fast food burgers were 50-cents more expensive, at least if Sloppy Joe ate 20,000 of them there'd be $10,000 in the health-care slush fund straight from his pocket to help pay the cost of treating his heart attack.

Perhaps this is all too complex. Perhaps it's just too much in the way of overregulation. But if somebody has a better idea I'd love to hear it.

No comments: