Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Auto Insurance and Wellness . . . Who’s Behind the Wheel?

We’ve heard a lot about health care costs, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health care reform during the last two years, so, being in the “wellness business” we thought we’d toss in our nickel’s worth on the subject. (And, speaking of nickels, would it surprise you to know that only 5 cents of every dollar spent on health care goes toward wellness and preventive health while the other 95 cents goes to treating illness after it occurs?)

Here’s a question . . . actually, several questions. What is “wellness” to you? What’s the connection between wellness and your health care costs? And, what is the connection with the auto insurance industry?

The answers to these questions might be somewhat different if you’re answering from the perspective of an employer rather than an individual. But, maybe not all that different. The ingredient that must be present to improve wellness, health and reduce health care costs, whether for yourself or your organization hinges on behavior change. And, there’s never been a more pressing need.

Consider two more questions: Are your auto insurance rates based on your driving history and record? Are your health insurance premiums based on preventive measures and personal lifestyle choices? (See where this is going . . .)

Between 2000 and 2010 health insurance rates rose approximately 114 percent. We are told to look for another 8.9 percent increase this year. On the other hand, auto insurance premiums have decreased 6.8 percent since 2009, in part because the auto industry creates the opportunity for its insured drivers to earn discounts—based on driving record, use of seatbelts, and driver’s education. On the flip side, accidents, multiple tickets, and poor driving behaviors result in significantly higher rates. Where health insurance is concerned, shouldn’t we be able to earn the same discounts through positive wellness and health care behaviors? Shouldn’t employers, through wellness programs offered through their organizations, receive rate discounts when their employees become proactive and make positive lifestyle changes, changes that result in lower health care costs and fewer claims?

In fact, a new study published in the March / April edition of the American Journal of Health Promotion finds that health care costs rose at a 15 percent slower rate among wellness program participants when offered a workplace wellness program. This showed a savings per participant of $332.

What if we could begin to reverse the climbing costs of chronic disease (80 percent of which is caused by poor lifestyle choices) by linking an individual’s positive behavior changes and improved health to rate discounts instead of the dreaded annual premium increase?

Think about where we would be if we all went out and actually made those positive behavior changes.

No comments: