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How The Health Insurance Industry Fights the High Costs of Medical Care
For many families, finding affordable health insurance is a task akin to the search for the Holy Grail. Depending on where in the country you live, a family health insurance plan can cost as much as $800-$1000 per month. Even when you split that cost between employee and employer, that's a major chunk of nearly anyone's monthly budget. And while it's popular to swear under your breath at the greed of the health insurance industry, a look at the cost of medical care is an eye-opening shock for many people. The expenses associated with a broken arm, for instance, can easily mount into several thousands of dollars.
** The Health Insurance Industry has a stake in keeping people healthy.
The high cost of health insurance is the direct result of the high cost of medical care. It's a simple matter of economics. The more it costs to take care of each subscriber, the more the insurance companies have to charge all their subscribers. This cost/expense ratio is what has made most health insurance companies embrace the idea of providing preventive care to their subscribers. It's a simple matter of business sense - healthy people don't cost the insurance companies a lot of money.
Accidents may be the first type of medical need that springs to mind when people consider buying health insurance, the major insurance companies all agree that accidents aren't the major cost drain on medical resources. That place is reserved for chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure. Because of this, it makes good business sense for health insurance companies to encourage their subscribers to adopt preventive health strategies. That pays off in special benefits for health conscious consumers.
** Preventive Health Benefits Help Keep Costs Low
Among the benefits that have become commonplace for major health insurance providers are routine physicals, medical screenings for all subscribers, discounts on health club and gym memberships, payment of dues for weight loss groups and lowered subscription fees for non-smokers.
Some health insurance companies and HMO's go even further in their preventive efforts. Because of the high risk of serious injury or fatality for infants in automobile accidents, Fallon Community Health Plan of Massachusetts has for years teamed with local organizations to provide free infant car seats to families with newborns. In the same spirit of prevention, many HMOs offer free stress management and stress reduction workshops to all subscribers because stress has been identified as a leading risk factor in nearly every major illness.
** Seeking a Cure
The quest for affordable health care has also prompted health insurance companies and HMOs to help fun research and health initiatives all over the country. The health insurance industry underwrites millions of dollars of medical research annually in an effort to lower the costs of health care. Their dollars fund grants to enroll low income and other hard to insure populations, and to offer eye, dental and health care to inner city and poor rural populations. The industry estimates that routine preventive eye and dental care, as well as routine medical screenings and physicals can identify illnesses at early stages and prevent conditions and costs from escalating out of reach.
** Get the Most from Your Health Insurance
You pay for it - you should certainly get the most possible benefit from your health insurance plan. Here are some suggestions for ways that you can make your health insurance plan work for you:
- Join a gym.
Check the benefits that your HMO or health insurance plan offers. Chances are good that one of them is a discount good on membership at a local gym or health club. Get fit - it saves THEM money... but it saves YOUR life.
- Lose weight.
Take advantage of nutritional counseling and memberships in weight loss support groups to get down to your ideal weight. Added bonus? Many health insurance plans offer a lower tier cost for subscribers who are at healthy weights.
- Quit smoking.
Non-smokers are another group that often enjoy lower health insurance premiums. Many HMOs and health insurance providers offer free smoking cessation programs to help you get smoke free and healthy.
- Attend medical screenings and health fairs.
Many health insurance providers sponsor 'wellness fairs' where you can have your blood pressure tested, get free medical screenings and learn about alternative medical techniques like massage therapy, acupuncture and yoga. Take advantage of special events to learn more and get healthy.
It may be popular to demonize the health insurance industry, but today more than ever, the health insurance industry has a stake in keeping you healthy. Find out what your health insurance company has to offer you by visiting their web site, or calling customer service.
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