American Workers Take to Exercise to Secure Cheap Health Insurance

health care costsAs health care costs continue to increase, a rising number of U.S. employers are passing those costs on to their workers. But according to a new study, obese workers may be taking the brunt of those costs, which is why employers are offering incentives to not only lose weight but reduce their financial burden.

The study revealed that employers are allowing obese workers to access cheap health insurance, if they agree to pick up an exercise routine that helps them lose weight. It appears that a large number of workers are jumping at the chance to reduce their rising health insurance costs.

Insurer Threatens Obese Workers with Higher Health Care Costs

In recent months, obese individuals insured by the Blue Care Network have been warned that they could pay as much as 20 percent more for coverage, according to the new study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan Health System and Stanford University.

Obesity is linked to a number of serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes and typically results in higher health care costs.

According to the study, which was published May 8 in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine, rather than swallowing those costs, the insurer has threatened to pass them on to their policyholders. As a result of the warning, more than 6,500 of those workers have opted into a pedometer-based program that could save them as much as $2,000 per year.

Workers Meet Fitness Goals to Secure Cheap Health Insurance

The pedometer-based program offered by Blue Care Network is a wellness intervention that encourages participants to walk an average of 5,000 steps per day, according to WebMD.

With the exception of people with medical conditions who were exempt from the program, after just one year, the study found that an astounding 97 percent of participants in the walking program have met or exceeded the goal to secure cheap health insurance.

This percentage included people who disagreed with the financial incentives and said the program was “coercive.”

While many may not agree with being forced to exercise to avoid higher health insurance costs, insurers are expected to offer more incentive programs like this in the future.

“There are ethical debates around the idea of forcing someone to be personally responsible for health care costs related to not exercising, but we expect to see more of these approaches to financially motivate healthier behaviors,” said Dr. Caroline Richardson, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor for a university news release.

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