There is a growing debate as to whether or not insurance companies should offer a discount for physically fit patients. More and more companies have been stepping up their employee fitness programs to help overweight employees lose weight and stay in good shape.
The logic behind employers adding gyms, discounting gym memberships, and encouraging physical fitness isn’t hard to figure out. Research has shown that obese individuals often have more medical conditions related to their obesity. This in turn means that health insurance companies end up paying out more money for health care for obese people.
Also those who are more physically fit tend to take less sick days, have more energy throughout the workday, and cost the company less in health care costs.
Before people start yelling about discrimination, consider the fact that companies and health insurance providers have long considered whether someone smokes or doesn’t smoke. Smokers are at a higher risk for health issues later down the line, a tab that companies and health insurance providers end up picking up.
It is no surprise when health insurance forms ask applicants for family history, existing medical conditions, and other information that they basically use to determine premiums and coverage.
And where does this extra money come from? It comes from other insured individuals and employee health plans. So basically those who use health insurance the least end up seeing that money spent on treating a select population of patients, money that could be saved or spent on other things.
Also consider that a lot of people have an issue with seeing their tax money go to welfare programs; how do people who are active in maintaining good health feel about footing the bill for those who might not do anything to stay healthy?
Obesity is a growing epidemic in America and the correlation between obesity and health problems is as clear as day. Diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, even increased injury due to more stress on the joints are all common conditions related to obesity.
Physically fit people may take an active role in determining their health by keeping active and keeping their weight in check. Just like smokers have a choice whether to smoke or not to smoke, so do most people when it comes to being overweight.
I’m willing to bet that if a financial incentive was introduced in terms of health care for those who try to remain physically fit, we’d see a drop in obesity rates. After all, look at the popular TV show ‘The Biggest Loser’. Money drives people to do things all the time, losing weight seems to be one of those things that money can motivate.
To be fair, offering discounts to physically fit people should be offered in a way that it promotes trying to lose weight and trying to stay in shape. People just trying to get back into shape should be given the same chance to get a discount as those who are already fit and in shape.
As for health insurance issued through job benefits and employee programs, employers have already begun offering more and more ways to stay in shape because it can increase productivity and it can save on medical bills down the line. Employers can then pass these savings on to employees who participate in fitness initiative programs. Health and wellness programs for employees are one way this is being done.
Employers have come under fire for telling employees they must quit smoking or face higher insurance premiums or even being fired. I’m sure employers and insurance companies will come under fire for telling employees to exercise or lose weight.
In the end however, obesity in the majority of cases is a treatable disease and people can be proactive in their steps to lose weight and stay physically fit. Offering discounts on health insurance to fit individuals is sure to get people moving quite literally.