The Union Recorder

March 8, 2014

ROWLAND: I’m feeling better about myself already

The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Like many Americans, I have a new health insurance carrier. Just to be fair, the fact that I have a different health insurance plan than I had last year has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. It has more to do with the fact that the plan my employer provided last year was losing money.

I know, I know. You are asking yourself how in the world can an insurance company lose money?  It’s really very simple. They send out more money than they take in. This is a basic business principal that is not unique to the health insurance world.

In fact, there are really only two possible solutions to the aforementioned business dilemma if you are the insurance company: take in more money or pay out less. Oh, there is one other possibility; you can do both.

My new insurance company set out not to commit the mistake made by my previous one. They reduced my benefit and raised my rate. Seems like a guaranteed recipe for making money.

Of course my business model for health insurance companies is a little over simplified. There are issues like risk, and degree of coverage, and all kinds of statistical probabilities that come into play. The truth is that insurance of any kind is all about the bet. The insurance company bets you won’t need to use your coverage and you bet that you will. Whoever wins the bet gets the money.

Of course that is a little complicated, too, because people who do not engage in risky behaviors are more likely to win the bet for insurance companies. Smokers who eat fried food and are obese are more likely to win the insurance bet for themselves. By the way, when you win that bet you really lose.

I suppose all of that just goes to show that the insurance game is complicated.

I will tell you this. My new insurance company is really interested in getting me into more healthy habits. I have had my biometric screening, whatever the heck that is, my well-being assessment, and they have assigned me a well-being coach.

That’s right. A well-being coach!  To quote Larry the Cable Guy, “You believe that?”

In fact, a few weeks back, I spent about 20 minutes on the phone with a very nice young lady who asked me a lot of questions about how I felt about myself. Now, you must know that the entire time I was listening to this chick tell me about all of the goals I could set for my healthier lifestyle, I was forming the beginnings of this column in my head.

So I agreed to exercise more, eat more fruits and vegetables, and have another well-being session with her in a few weeks.

Oh, and my new insurance has a well-being website. That’s right!  An entire website devoted to helping me do the things for myself that must be beyond my well-being coach. I mean - one shouldn’t depend on others for everything.

In fact, during the month of March, my well-being website has what they call the step it up challenge. The essence of this little event is that I am supposed to set a goal of taking 10,000 steps per day. I am to record my steps on the website daily to see how I am doing against my goal.

I do have to admit that I noticed this event to be a little bit of a racket. Now, you have to be thinking the same thing I am - how does one count steps each day?  

The website has this all figured out, too. Buy a Fitbit. Just click the button on the website, and you will be routed to a place that sells this contraption that you somehow wear on your body and, among other things, it counts your steps.

Thus the racket.

Of course in order to have dollars deposited into my Health Reimbursement Account (HRA), I have to complete the step it up challenge. Sigh … Oh well - it is what it is.

So I leave my house one morning and count my steps to my truck … 30 … so far so good. Mental note … 30 steps from door to truck. Four trips during the day from door to truck - 120 steps. So far so good.

I get to my parking space at work, hit the pavement, and start counting … one, two, three. …

“Oh, hi Bill. How’s it going?”… four … no wait … eight … or was it 10? … Dang! Lost count.

So I walk back to my truck and start again. One … two … three … 16 … 17 … 18. …

“Excuse me, Ma’am. Let me get that door for you”

Twenty two … no wait … 20 or was it 23? … Dang! Lost count again.

I stop for a minute and realize that at this rate I may never get out of the parking garage.

So I do what any self-respecting, insurance savvy, rule following, techie gadget guy would do. I download to my smartphone a step counting app from the app store and let my trusty hand-held electronic device do its stuff.

There. Problem solved. I’m feeling better about myself already.