Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Health Survey

Rate your sex appeal. What is your personality type? How clean is your kitchen? These are just a few of the questions streaming from the Internet, magazines and newspapers. Some seem innocuous and other just plain weird. Questionnaires about sex life, condom use, bathroom habits, smoking, drinking, exercise, diet, ghosts, healthcare, zombies and the list goes on are visible everyday. After visiting a website or an on-line merchant a prompt appears asking if you would like to complete a survey. Who writes these surveys? Perhaps there are rooms full of people with way too much time on their hands and other people working in rooms with padded walls watched by attendants in white coats.

But every so often a survey comes along that seems to have merit and a useful purpose. But outwards appearances could be deceiving as I discovered. I am involved with the evaluation and selection of my company’s health insurance policy and as part of the process our agent presented an option available from our present carrier. And I volunteered to be the guinea pig for the “health survey and rewards program.” I won’t give the exact name as I don’t want to reveal the name of the company.

Briefly the benefit of the “survey” is a discount on the insurance premium if a minimum number of employees sign up and participate in the overall program. There are direct rewards for the participant after reaching certain point levels. The discount grows larger as more employees join. A possible ten percent discount is hard not to investigate. I logged on to website, created a user name and password, and then I answered a series of health questions. The objective of the initial survey reveals how old you are through an evaluation of your health, drug, diet and exercise regimens. Not withstanding the fact that they already knew my age from my insurance records the questions really weren’t very involved.

They wanted to know what diseases and treatments you have, what medications you take, diet, smoking, sleep, and exercise habits you have were the extent of the questions. After a fifteen minute survey the computer informed me of my “equivalent” age. Bingo: sixty-eight. Exactly right. I would have be depressed if I was seventy-five and elated if I was fifty, but sixty-eight, how normal.

Another surprise came after the survey results were reported. A variety of pathways to improve your score (and presumably your health) involving more than just hints and tips on diet, medication or exercise were presented. Links to follow and forms to complete, as expected from an insurance company. One of the suggested ways of earning more points was to donate blood. Help you and society at the same time, how noble.

Another means to earn points is to get a health screening. Download a form and get it completed by your doctor. Better yet, download the form and go to one the company’s clinics. No mention if there was a charge, but do you think the clinic would see me without requesting a payment? I doubt it.

Would there be a penalty (increase in premium) for not following the clinics recommendations? How about if I gained weight? Or reduced my exercise level? Would there be more points for walking and less for skydiving? Of course these activities are good for you, but what if a penalty was imposed for not following guidelines?

My cynicism about the program is influenced by the existence of the question: What is the purpose of an insurance company?

You would be wrong if you answered that its mission is to provide health care. The purpose of the insurance company is to make profits for the stockholders. They do that by charging premiums for a service in which they control the amount of benefits paid out.

What if you went to a car dealership with $30,000 and they said you were eligible to get a used 1970 VW, not the current model? Emphasis is often given to guiding the policy holder to less expensive options. Generic drugs, select hospitals, preferred doctors, clinics, allowing this procedure while denying another and generally dictating what and how much they will pay are the means to holding down costs.

Maybe I am a cynic but after giving the survey and the program some thought I have decided to opt out. They already have sufficient information about me from my doctors; they don’t need me to give them a noose so I can hang myself (increase my premium).

So here I am sitting at my computer writing about a giant and perhaps mythical insurance company conspiracy to get more money from me instead actually improving my health.

Not my current computer

Maybe I’ll go for a walk and retake the survey and get my age down to 60? Now that would be worthwhile, I’d pay for that.

60th Birthday Cakes

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  1. I wonder of those links are 'pay per click' and the insurance making even more money as clients click on them? I never click on ads on websites or blogs.

    Good hunting for the best value!

  2. At my job, we have a Medical Reimbursement Account and I get money for doing healthy things. Pretty cool motivation for Nina and I.

  3. I had to wonder about that old Mac. Thought you might be one of those who could keep an old computer going. I loved those first Macs.

    As for that 60th b'day cake, sure hope you aren't eating like that on a daily basis. Good health is important for us as we get older. Cake, not so much.

  4. DKSODY:
    The old Mac is just around for fun; my sons won't let me sell it. It works, somewhat. The data can't be exported other formats, printer no longer works. It is just a decoration.

    The cakes are just around for fun also.