Suppose a healthcare insurance company in the United States offered a steeply discounted price with one big catch: Customers would need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and prove it on a regular basis. Would people sign up?
I’m assuming there are scientific ways to determine if a patient smokes cigarettes, abuses substances, or has a poor diet. (Blood tests?) And let’s say there’s a GPS tracking watch that customers could use to prove they were at their gyms three times a week, or biking, or playing tennis. Or perhaps there’s a pedometer to track your running. And let’s say you don’t need to wear the tracking watch or the pedometer unless you are heading to your workout.
Let’s not get bogged down in how we could monitor a healthy lifestyle. I think it’s doable. The question is whether people would give up privacy in order to get direct cash benefits in lower healthcare costs. I think you could cut health insurance costs by a third or more for a group of people with proven healthy lifestyles.
Obviously the people who already have healthy lifestyles would sign up first. And when enough of the healthy people move to the discounted healthcare system it would drive up prices for the relatively unhealthy people who remain in other systems, thus increasing everyone’s financial incentive to lead healthier lives.
As it stands now, the people who make healthy lifestyle choices are subsidizing the healthcare costs of the people who make unhealthy choices. You might think good health is enough of a reward to cause people to make healthy choices, but evidently it isn’t. A good dose of financial incentive might help.
Obviously a system such as this would be too Big Brotherish if it were mandatory. But I’m assuming a disruptive small company could enter the health insurance field and specialize in insuring only the people who don’t mind having their healthy lifestyles monitored. The free market would do the rest.