How Healthy Eating Saves You Money On Health Insurance

by | Jun 30, 2010
Day 9

Photo by j.reed

I’ve been a student my entire life so have never had to worry about health insurance. (I’m 30. I know.) As you might expect, I consequently don’t know much about how the whole business works.

One thing I do know, however, is that when I finally have to join the real world and find my own coverage I hope to use it as little as possible. According to today’s guest post, it looks like I’m on the right track.

Yamileth Medina is an up-and-coming expert on health and health insurance plans. She lives in Miami, Florida. Follow her on Twitter @YamilethMedina.

How Healthy Eating Saves You Money On Health Insurance

by Yamileth Medina

We all know eating healthy helps us look and feel our best, but there is another great reason to upgrade your healthstyle: a healthy diet can save you a ton of money on health care costs.

Over the past decade, health insurance rates have skyrocketed. In 2009, monthly premiums in the United States were 131% higher than they were in 2000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This is largely due to the high cost of treating diseases related to unhealthy diets.

According to a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and RTI International, health conditions related to obesity (including type 2 diabetes and heart disease) cost the American health care system over $147 billion each year.

What is this money spent on?

  • Open-heart bypass surgery: up to $20,000
  • Prescription medication and supplies for diabetes: $115 to $177 monthly–for life
  • CPAP machines (to treat sleep apnea): from $150 to $5,000

An obese person costs 42% more to treat than a person of normal weight, which is an additional $1,429. Health insurance plans must pass these costs onto you through higher premiums. In order to recoup these expenses, obese individuals often find it harder to find individual coverage, due to the increased risk of health problems obesity entails.

Much of this cost is passed onto other consumers, since the majority of Americans have employer-sponsored plans from their jobs. Insurers must recoup the increased costs in order to maintain their margins.

Although the Obama administration’s healthcare reform legislation will eventually forbid health insurance companies from denying you a policy due to your health status, that will not take effect until 2014. Still, unhealthy individuals will not be out of the woods: the law also promotes wellness incentives, which promote healthy lifestyle modifications–such as dietary changes. Under the legislation, insurers and employers will be allowed to refund up to 50 percent of the premiums for those who meet the specified goals. That is a significant amount of money that could end up in your pocket if you maintain a healthy weight.

From my personal experience, healthy eating is close to 80 percent of the equation when it comes to weight loss. I was a faithful exerciser for years, but it wasn’t until I changed my diet–to include more vegetables and whole grains–that I started seeing success.

Even if you are lucky enough to be blessed with an extremely fast metabolism, that doesn’t mean that you can eat nothing but junk all day and not suffer any consequences. The “skinny-fat” phenomenon consists of people who appear healthy, but have the cardiovascular profile of someone in poor health. Unhealthy eating habits promote visceral fat, which is invisible to the naked eye but is even more harmful to your well-being than the visible flabby stuff.

In fact, some studies indicate that even if an obese person does not reach a healthy body mass index (BMI), under a healthy eating plan they would nevertheless be healthier than a person of normal weight that had a relatively high percentage of body fat.

Can multivitamins make up for a poor diet? Don’t count on it. When it comes to health, nutrients are not the same as food. There seems to be something special about how all of the nutrients work together in the context of whole foods. In that respect, nature can’t be improved upon.

For several years, insurance companies will still be able to judge your health status and decide on your rates accordingly. Maintaining a healthy weight means you will be free of expensive co-payments for cholesterol and heart disease medication, and benefit from any financial incentives that may come about in the future.

Upgrading your healthstyle also assists you in sticking to a budget; cooking for yourself is far less expensive than eating out one or more times a day. In a nation slowly crawling out of a severe recession, this is especially important.

Above all, your immune system will become stronger–helping you stay healthy and reducing the chance of expensive hospitalizations in the future.

Fortunately the solution for better health is relatively simple. Visiting a farmers market once a week and buying a cookbook or two can save you a substantial amount of money on your health insurance plan in the long run.

Is your diet affecting your health insurance costs?

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3 Responses to “How Healthy Eating Saves You Money On Health Insurance”

  1. baahar says:

    Thanks for sharing !! I loved this:

    “When it comes to health, nutrients are not the same as food. There seems to be something special about how all of the nutrients work together in the context of whole foods.”

  2. Liz says:

    This article is great and its message is one that can’t be repeated often enough in my opinion. Vegetables and whole grains are so important for our overall health and wellbeing – my energy levels have soared since I started including more of both in my diet 🙂 And my skin looks healthier too!

  3. Carolyn Jung says:

    With the passage of the new health care bill, hopefully it’ll make it easier for those who struggle to get coverage now. And let’s hope everyone starts taking better care of themselves, by using these awesome tips.

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