Controlling the Cost of HealthcareJan 29, 2021 04:16PM ● By G. Gregory Tooker
During the many years your writer served as a consultant to the National League of Cities in Washington, DC, we came across several examples of truly creative solutions to problems adversely affecting the social and economic fabric of America. One such approach, if applied on a broad, national scale, could enormously impact our struggling economy in a very positive way. In fact, individual families could eventually save thousands of dollars if the concept were fully embraced by the government and the healthcare insurance industry.
Recent medical news stories describe how the overall decline in the health and wellness of the average U.S. citizen, such as mounting obesity, measurably increases the probability of serious health issues. The chance of contracting COVID-19, for example, is said to be higher for folks significantly overweight. This has prompted many to engage in daily exercise, such as jogging, walking and biking. The incentive to avoid the deadly virus has had the effect of spurring people into action. What if we could provide an equally motivating incentive to persuade people to continue this preventive behavior once we have defeated the virus?
The State of Vermont has compiled COVID-related performance data that is impressive. Granted, the average Vermonter practices a more active lifestyle than their fellow Americans. Your writer became aware of that fact several years ago when we were monitoring the results of a project initiated by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.
Under the expert direction of the VLCT’s Wellness Promotion Department, municipalities throughout the state were offered healthcare insurance cost incentives if they committed to wellness improvement annual goals. These targets were developed and agreed to by democratic process, among town employees. The League developed customized wellness programs for the individual cities and towns and assisted them achieving those goals by providing on-site training and educational materials. The results of the pilot program were highly encouraging, allowing towns and their employees and families to become healthier and achieve significant healthcare cost savings.
Passage of the Affordable Care Act was a huge step in the direction of making affordable healthcare available to every American. The formidable challenge of keeping this program fiscally viable will be daunting if we do not take steps to reducing health risks for all Americans. Life insurance companies offer lower premiums for policyholders who stop smoking. Similar incentives can be offered to Americans who opt for a healthier lifestyle. If every patriotic American sets even a modest wellness improvement goal, with the help of such an incentive, the country will be taking a large step forward toward assuring long-term, affordable healthcare for all.