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Small Business Employee Benefits and HR Blog

What You Need to Know About Health Care Reform: Go On a Diet

You've probably been hearing a lot about how Obama wants to lower the cost of medical care. No one has any idea how he plans on doing that, but one likely plan is by taking advantage of the growing Wellness industry.wellness

Health care reform and wellness

Doctors and hospitals spend almost all of their time trying to fix sick people.  Wellness programs attempt to prevent people from getting sick in the first place.

These numbers from Congress say that America spent $147 billion on obesity related healthcare in 2008.  That's a whole lot of money.  Rather than treating this obesity, a Wellness program would offer incentives for living a healthy lifestyle so that fewer Americans suffer from obesity to begin with.

Can a wellness program be run through U.S. health care reform?

There are two ways to encourage people to live healthier lifestyles.  One is rewarding good behavior (losing weight, quiting smoking, etc.).  The other is punishing bad behavior (taxing overweight people for example).

I was talking about this with a doctor that works with a Wellness company and he gave his opinion on what public opinion would allow.  He basically said that people will accept rewarding good behavior, but they'll call it discrimination if you punish bad behavior.

I personally think that a government Wellness program could be an effective way to cut costs and it could lead to better overall health in this country (sounds like a win/win).  I don't think that it's fair to punish people for being obese or smoking (this being a free country and all) but I think it's certainly fair to withhold government money if you live an unhealthy lifestyle.

For example, if I can afford my own healthcare costs and I don't rely on the government, it's entirely up to me if I want to smoke.  However, if taxpayers are footing my medical bills, it's not entirely up to me anymore.  As soon as I accept help from the government, I should be subject to Wellness penalties.

What do you think? 

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