Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why health care costs keep going up

I have high hopes for health care reform: that it will result in most if not all Americans having health care insurance; that the quality of care will improve; and that costs will stop going up by so much year after year.

It’s in this third area that I have some concerns. In my 25 years in the health care insurance business, I’ve seen first hand some trends that will make it very hard, although not impossible, to contain future costs. The one that comes to mind first is unhealthy lifestyles. A multiyear study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that if people would do 4 simple things, exercise regularly, eat healthy, not smoke and maintain a normal weight, they could cut their risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke or cancer by 80%.

Across the country, there continues to be an increase in these conditions. A new government study says that on average, we spend $1,400 year a more on medical costs for an obese person than for someone of normal weight. The total bill for delivering health care in our country would decline dramatically if more Americans adopted healthy eating habits and exercised regularly.

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