HEALTH COSTS: Bad Habits Push Up Expenses
Smokers, overeaters and the physically inactive rack up higher short-term health care charges than those without modifiable health risks, according to a new HealthPartners study published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers who surveyed almost 6,000 HealthPartners members over age 40 about their lifestyle and health habits and then examined their medical claims for 18 months, found that smokers incur health care expenses 18% higher than nonsmokers, while costs for the sedentary -- those who fail to exercise at least once a week -- are 4.7% higher than those for physically active individuals. In addition, health care costs increase 1.9% per unit increase in body mass index (Marcotty, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/15). The results indicate that health plans and payers seeking to minimize health care charges may wish to consider strategic investments in interventions that effectively modify adverse health risks, although the "reversibility of these charges with changes in health risks remains uncertain," the authors write (Pronk, et al., JAMA, 12/15). Nicholas Pronk, study author and director of HealthPartners' Center for Health Promotion, added that the study clearly shows that "the cost of inaction" on the part of health plans and employers is too great. Pronk believes employers and insurers should stress physical activity most, noting, "Regardless of age, race or gender, physical activity benefits everyone. And there is an incredible prevalence of physical inactivity, so there is a lot to be gained" (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.