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Health Insurance Expenses: Study Finds Exercise Incentives Successful

May 13th, 2013

health insurance expensesExercise or pay more toward health insurance expenses? According to a recent study, most people would rather stay active when given these options.

Health insurance expenses lower for those more active

Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System and Stanford University followed more than 6,500 obese people insured by Blue Care Network enrolled in a pedometer-based program to avail premium discounts and found that the majority met their fitness goals.

“Wellness interventions like this clearly hold significant promise for encouraging physical activity among adults who are obese,” said lead author Dr. Caroline Richardson, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan.

After a year of joining the walking program, almost 97 percent of the participants had met or exceeded the average goal of five thousand steps a day. Even people who disagreed with the financial incentives and claimed the program was “coercive” found success.

Higher health insurance expenses for those not physically active

According to the study, published may 8 in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine, some families who failed to meet the fitness requirements had nearly $2,000 more out-of-pocket cost each year. Those with medical conditions were exempt if they had a waiver from a doctor.

Obesity is linked to serious medical conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure which contribute to rising costs of health insurance in the United States.

Insurers are likely to offer these incentive programs in the future, Richardson said.

“There are ethical debates around the idea of forcing someone to be personally responsible for health care costs related to not exercising, but we expect to see more of these approaches to financially motivate healthier behaviors,” Richardson said in a university news release.

“Our evaluation of Blue Care’s incentivized program showed a surprisingly high rate of people who enrolled in the Internet-mediated walking program and stuck with it — even among those who were initially hostile to the idea,” Richardson said.

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