I think health insurers, employers and wellness companies need to think harder about how to maximize their ability to improve people’s health and hold down health care costs without provoking a backlash.
Americans smoke too much, eat too much, fight too much and drink too much. Researchers backed by UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn. (NYSE:UNH), recently noted in a U.S. health report that 15.5% of U.S. adults say they have engaged in binge drinking in the past 30 days.
Public and private health plans, and employers that sponsor group health plans, should have a say in influencing this kind of behavior, because they pay the majority of the health care bills.
Even uninsured people who pay for as much care as they can out of pocket may end up reaching into insurer, employer and taxpayer wallets when, at some point, they enter the hospital with a serious behavior-related illness.
Filling out a health survey is cheap, easy and doesn’t take much time.
I’m obese and will probably end up high blood pressure, but my parents are still alive and my grandparents all lived long lives, and the only times I’ve ever entered a hospital were for lazy eye surger and to have a baby. I haven’t even had a tonsillectomy, or a broken bone.
On the other hand, when I got a couple of health surveys of my own within the past few months, they really got on my nerves.
My husband is mad at me because he thinks I spend too much time writing about health insurance, so we tried going to a marriage counselor. We have the high-deductible plan with a health savings account, and we paid for the sessions out of pocket. I then got survey that seemed to be written based on the assumption that I was a depressed bulimic ranting in a corner somewhere about the nasty space people who are living in my belly button.
I also have a general-purpose health questionnaire in an e-mail link somewhere.