A Lesson in Health Care Costs from The Biggest Loser

When I watch “The Biggest Loser” I am always struck by how great the contestants feel even after losing just a little bit of weight. By eating more healthily, getting more active, and caring about their health, they start noticing tangible benefits almost immediately. Many speak of going off medications and controlling dangerous health conditions, like high blood pressure. You can really see the quality of life improvement after they have been voted off, and they report how much weight they have lost at home.

This brings me to health care costs. I am thankful that I have health care, don’t get me wrong. However, I admit this issue gets me a little testy, because our insurance rates go up at a rate much higher than the rate of inflation every year. Personally, I am tired of increased health care costs eating into my raises, because like all people, I could use that extra raise money. Right now, for family health insurance, between me and my employer, we pay over $1,000 a month. I can’t believe it. I get upset because my wife and I go out of our way to make good and healthy choices, and visit the doctor only when necessary, and we are paying for those who couldn’t care less about it. I know how insurance works, and I know that it is about a group taking on risk, so I know I have to be in a pool with other people. However, why not provide financial incentives for those who are healthy and don’t use the system that much? I would take a $1000 rebate at the end of the year because I am within my weight range, or because I only went to the doctor twice, etc. Why not set up a system of rebates based on healthy choices? I know a lot of people who would suddenly care about their weight and health if they knew an extra grand was in it for them at the end of the year. And I am not saying anybody should be forced to be healthy. You don’t want to get healthy? That is your choice, but, as common sense dictates, you will be responsible for taking on the cost of your increased risk to the group. Obviously, the companies should not penalize things out of a person’s control, e.g. a congenital condition, but some rather large risk factors are within a person’s choice. I don’t think this is unfair, but it does get rid of the “free ride” mentality that many currently have related to health insurance.

Right now, the way most insurance is set up, it incentivizes bad behavior, because you might as well use all you can get because you’re paying anyway. The “throw money” at health insurance approach, whether government sponsored or through private insurance companies, isn’t working. Let’s use “The Biggest Loser” as an example. When people get healthy, they find that they don’t need to take as much medication, and their risk of suffering from expensive, chronic, diseases drops. Just imagine if half the people in your insurance group made changes like they do on “the Biggest Loser.” Even the initial drop in prescription drug costs would be tremendous. You may even see a rare decrease in rates! Now imagine if half the overweight people in the United States made a similar move. It wouldn’t fix our health care costs, but it would certainly help.