Tuesday, July 25, 2006


WSJ Cost Sharing Poll

More interesting stuff from WSJ:
A new WSJ.com/Harris health-care poll indicates growing U.S. support for charging higher insurance premiums or out-of-pockets medical costs to people with unhealthy lifestyles.

The online survey of 2,325 U.S. adults found that 53% of Americans think it is fair to ask people with unhealthy lifestyles to pay higher insurance premiums than people with healthy lifestyles, while 32% said it would be unfair. When asked the same question in 2003, 37% said it would be fair, while 45% said it would be unfair. Healthy lifestyles were described as not smoking, exercising frequently and controlling one's weight.

In the latest poll, 53% also felt it was fair to charge higher deductibles or co-payments to people with unhealthy lifestyles, while 30% said that would be unfair. In 2003, 36% said it would be fair and 47% said it would be unfair.

Among other findings: 56% agreed that people who are unemployed and poor should get the same quality health care as people who are employed and pay substantial taxes.
Educating the public on why this is a bad trend should be a priority for insurers and insurance professionals. Charging different rates based on lifestyles is a slippery slope. Soon after, "Why not have the smokers pay a few additional percentage points?" we would hear, "Smoking drives a large portion of national healthcare costs - why shouldn't the smokers bear that cost? Even better, why not the evil tobacco companies?" This train of thought ultimately leads to adverse selection which can have disastrous consequences.

Certainly helping people connect choices with consequences is beneficial. Implementing a few controlled disincentives for unhealthy lifestyles can work, but we must be careful not to go too far. Positive rewards and incentives for healthy lifestyles are harder to implement, but don't usher in adverse selection.

The public is frustrated. They have little to no control over their health insurance costs. This poll clearly demonstrates that people want this to change. This can be a good thing if done properly, but without guidance could create even greater problems. Insurance professionals and providers we must guard against misguided initiatives.

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home