Health insurance has become the leading political issue of our day, but much of the recent debate about how to pay for it has overlooked the negative impact it has on American’s health. Health insurance in fact encourages unhealthy behavior and risky attitudes to health that ironically and perversely have led to our skyrocketing health care costs.
This book was written to share with a much larger audience what we have learned about the impact of health insurance on individuals’ health over the past 20 years. It all started in the late 1980’s as an idea to get people to live healthier lifestyles which earlier research by several others supported the concept that this would be very effective in reducing disease. It quickly became apparent that individuals felt no need to do pay for this on their own as they “had insurance to cover health related costs”.
After discussions with several health insurance providers, it was clear that most did not understand the concept of prevention. They could understand doing something after experiencing a large health care claim, but the notion of spending money before the subscriber was ill was an anathema to most of them. A few insurers along with many large employers, who are most often self insured for health care costs, readily saw the merits of spending a few dollars to save a lot of dollars. Many were even willing to reward their employees for making significant lifestyle changes. Thus an approach to prevention was born which over the next 18 years has been very rewarding in terms of motivating and helping people change their behaviors.
We learned a lot along the way. Initially we only worked with individuals who either had or were at high risk for developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes. We later learned that excluding healthy employees who might have high risk spouses did not make sense and expanded the programs to anyone who wished to participate.
It was exciting and rewarding to see the changes in people’s behaviors and resultant dramatic improvement in measured risk factors. Two-thirds of all participants over those 18 years made significant measured reductions in their risks. The impact on their sense of well being was most amazing and an unexpected plus. Many entered the programs only if 100% assured their confidentiality would be protected. After seeing their results and realizing how well they did, they could not wait to tell everyone about it.
An independent analysis of data from our programs was performed by Watson Wyatt Worldwide. This was funded by an employer who wanted to know if they were financially benefiting from our programs. The results indicated greater than $5.00 saved for every $1.00 spent on our programs. This is considered an extremely high return on investment (R.O.I.).
Many individuals who were familiar with our programs, but did not work for any of the companies where we ran programs wanted to know how they could participate on their own. Hence this book which incorporates the actual lectures and slides into narrative form as given at the worksites. It also allows the perpetuation of what I believe can make a very important difference in your life as you work your way through these lifestyle changes.
We hope that readers of this book gain a greater understanding of how risky behavior, encouraged by health care, has led to a broken health care system while endangering the lives of millions. Fortunately, there are immediate solutions that individuals can undertake today to reverse declining individual and national health, and we hope our book addresses that.