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Do you deserve affordable health insurance if you don't take care of yourself?

Maryalene LaPonsie | February 2, 2011

What if you had a medical problem that could be treated inexpensively but you chose not to? What if your failure to manage your health condition resulted in more serious health problems or costly hospitalization? Should you still be guaranteed affordable medical insurance?

There are no simple answers, but the questions are certainly worth pondering. That's especially true given recent information published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An appallingly low number of individuals are successfully controlling hypertension and high cholesterol, according to a February report from CDC's Vital Signs.

The health care epidemic

You don't have to be a medical doctor to see the woeful state of American health. We eat too much, exercise too little and bristle at the suggestion that our health problems are the result of our own doing. Our lifestyle choices have led to cities full of portly people, and often threatens our very lives.

Three startling CDC findings:

  1. 1 in 2 Americans have hypertension - high blood pressure - and only half of those have it under control
  2. 2 in 3 Americans have high cholesterol and 67 percent of those don't have it under control
  3. Improved management of hypertension and high cholesterol could save 100,000 lives annually

The real tragedy in these numbers is that hypertension and high cholesterol are two conditions that don't even require medical intervention to be prevented, in most cases. If you drop a few pounds, quit smoking and reduce your salt intake, you could find your blood pressure and cholesterol returning to normal ranges. For those needing a little help to manage their numbers, today's prescriptions are highly efficient and often available.

Affordable health insurance and health reform

You may be reading these stats and thinking to yourself that it is probably easy to control your blood pressure and cholesterol if you have health insurance. And obviously, the 50 percent with uncontrolled blood pressure and 67 percent with uncontrolled cholesterol must largely fall into the category of uninsured.

On the contrary, the reality is that 80 percent of those with these uncontrolled conditions have health insurance. For whatever reason, they don't regularly visit the doctor or take prescriptions as directed. For example, half of those taking medication for cholesterol stop within the first year, according to the CDC.

The result of avoiding treatment for high blood pressure and cholesterol can be devastating, including heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease. All cost significantly more to treat - consuming one in six dollars spent on U.S. health care - than high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Moreover, every 39 seconds another adult dies from one of these serious conditions.

Under health reform, all individuals with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied medical coverage by 2014. In addition, health insurance companies will be unable to charge higher premiums for those with ongoing medical needs. Without being able to adjust costs for individual policyholders based on health, the money has to come from somewhere. It stands to reason that costs will be absorbed through premiums increases for all members of a plan. All that brings us back to the question with no easy answer: if you choose not to manage your pre-existing condition, do you deserve the right to affordable health insurance?

Tags : health care reform, pre existing conditions, disease management

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