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How to Lower Medical Bills by Staying Healthy

The cost of health care coverage is top of mind for a lot of people these days. You may not necessarily connect your health with your financial life, but the two are related. An unhealthy lifestyle often leads to obesity, which is one of the biggest causes of preventable diseases—and therefore, drivers of health care costs.1 In the U.S. alone, obesity-related health care costs range from $147 to almost $210 billion each year.1 Obesity is also linked to absenteeism and lower productivity at work.

On an individual level, being overweight or obese is costly, too. According to a study published in the journal Health Affairs, overweight people spend more on medical bills and health-related expenses than people who are not overweight.2 In the study, obese individuals spent $1,492 more per year on health care—42 percent more than people of a normal weight. So, if you’re wondering how to lower medical bills by improving your lifestyle, here are some health tips to keep in mind:

Obesity puts you at risk for many health problems.

These include high blood pressure; heart disease and stroke; type 2 diabetes; certain types of cancer; sleep apnea; fatty liver disease; osteoarthritis; kidney disease; and pregnancy problems such as high blood sugar and increased risk for cesarean delivery. These chronic health problems cost the individuals who suffer from them and the health care community as a whole lots of money.3 By getting in shape and losing weight, you reduce both physical and financial stress.

The health benefits of exercise go way beyond the surface.

Sure, regularly engaging in the Curves Circuit will help you lose and maintain weight. It will also tone your muscles and help you look and feel stronger. Beyond appearance, the health benefits of exercise are just as profound. In an important study, researchers found physical exercise is one of the most powerful preventers of most chronic diseases.4 Better health and lower disease risk means fewer expensive trips to see your health care provider.

More pounds equal fewer dollars in your wallet.

For people who are morbidly obese, meaning they have a body mass index (BMI) above 40, the cost of health care is much higher. For example, in the United States, the cost of health care for morbidly obese adults is 81 percent higher than it is for adults at a healthy weight.5 No matter how much you weigh when you start, losing just 5 percent of your body weight will make a difference in your health.6 How’s that for weight loss motivation?

A large portion of the cost comes from prescription drugs.

Obese individuals with a BMI between 30 and 35 are more likely than normal weight folks to take prescription medications for medical problems that have resulted from them being overweight.7 These medications include drugs to lower blood sugar and high blood pressure, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and others. By getting in shape and losing weight, you will reduce your need for these types of costly medications.

Losing weight will help you stick with your health care provider.

One study looked at how often overweight and obese patients changed doctors more than five times in a two year span (called “doctor shopping”) compared with normal weight people. The researchers found overweight people doctor-shopped 23 percent more than normal weight people, and obese patients were 52 percent more likely to follow this pattern. A big contributor to this trend is unfair bias against obese patients by some physicians.8 Switching providers is costly, both to patients and the health care system.

You’ll be less likely to end up in the emergency room.

In the study mentioned above, researchers found overweight and obese people were 80 percent more likely to go to the ER for medical treatment than normal weight patients. This is likely due in part to the discomfort they feel when they visit their primary care physicians. Emergency room visits can be up to 10 times more expensive than a trip to the doctor’s office.9

If you’re looking for added motivation to improve your health, the notion of lower health care costs may help. In addition to the health benefits of exercise and weight loss, there are financial benefits to exercising, eating healthier, and dropping pounds as well. By adding an exercise routine and healthy eating plan, not only will you lower your risk for chronic diseases and enjoy mental health benefits of exercise, you will help lower your household costs. More money in your pocket means more freedom to enjoy life as a healthier you.

Sources:

  1. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. Health Affairs
  3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
  4. Comprehensive Physiology
  5. International Journal of Obesity
  6. Cell Metabolism
  7. BMC Health Services Research
  8. Health.com
  9. Debt.org