I had lunch with a friend today and she told me about some pretty serious health problems that her husband's family have been dealing with. They are all having some kind of kidney problem that is aggravated by high blood pressure. It seems that there is a genetic component, but this is also a heavy-drinking family of really big guys who smoke. I think there's a little of both going on. One of the brothers has already apparently had a port installed on his arm for the dialysis he is going to need before he's in his late forties.
Yikes. I was listening to an old Jillian podcast and she was saying that in order to make a change, you have to both believe it is possible and believe it is worth it. I'm not sure what's going through this guy's head, but my guess is that he just has given up on the idea that change is possible.
I was having a discussion with one of my co-workers yesterday who thinks that health insurance should be more expensive for people who make various bad lifestyle choices like smoking, heavy drinking, being overweight and the like. I am definitely not in that camp -- I don't think punishing people (or offering discounts on insurance for those who are "good") is really going to make a difference. We all know how hard it can be to make changes. Sometimes it seems impossible. Serious penalties like that could just demoralize people further.
I'm 100% in favor of voluntary programs that help people take practical steps to improve their health. I know a local employer gave employees free gym memberships but only if they used them a certain amount -- say 3 times a week. The same employer also had a completely-subsidized Weight Watchers at Work program. I think the employer saved on health-care premiums as a result of offering these programs. I saw several people at the gym who were seriously motivated by those incentives to lose weight and get fit.
There's all kinds of lunacy going around about what's in the healthcare bills going through Congress, but I hope that help with prevention and wellness are encouraged. And, by the way, speaking of prevention, how about doing something about the fact that more than 50% of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned? Helping people pay for birth control is a lot cheaper than paying to deliver babies. I'm not sure why more insurance companies haven't figured out that particular math problem.