Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Healthy Incentives

I went to the doctor's office last week.  It was something of a combo visit.  I wanted to get checked out for this cold that I have had for five weeks now--and I had to get in my annual physical before April 1st.  You see, my health insurance provider gives me some incentive to get an annual physical--if I was to fail to get one, the low premiums I enjoy with my High Deductible Health Savings Account policy would TRIPLE.  Believe me, when faced with that possibility, you make it a priority to see the doctor--even if you feel great.  As a further incentive, the insurance picks up the entire cost of the physical.

After the examination, I was given a clean bill of health (save for the cold).  Proper blood pressure and heart rate, healthy weight, low bad cholesterol levels, no unusual lumps, spots or internal sounds.  My physician said it was one of the most "boring" examinations she had ever done--as most people who come in are overweight, out-of-shape, borderline-diabetic or at risk for having a heart attack at any minute.

I told her I have incentive to stay healthy, as I'm paying for the first couple thousand dollars for any medical procedure out of my own pocket--having an HD-HSA policy.  She laughed and said she wished more people had that incentive--as most of the people she sees are on Medicare or Badgercare--and they aren't paying much of anything out of pocket.

And there you have it: the number one cause of out-of-control health care costs--when you aren't picking up the tab--or a very small percentage of it--what is your incentive to actually limit that expense?  What would you buy at the grocery store if the bill was sent somewhere else and you paid only a little bit of the actual cost?  What size house would you live in if you only had to pay 5% of the mortgage?  How would you drive if your insurance rates never went up--no matter how many crashes you had?

Besides the over-reaching, unconstitutional requirements of the Affordable Care Act and its budget-crushing deficit-tripling cost, the lack of any incentive to be healthy and ease the crunch on the health care system is my biggest problem with the new law.  Why not allow insurers who are now "required" to cover everyone, to give a cost break to those who cost very little to insure--and put the high risk enrollees cover more of their own expenses? 

That third handful of potato chips might be less tempting if you knew it would be hitting you in the pocketbook-along with the waistline.

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