Are Health Insurance Discounts For Healthy Behaviors/Outcomes Fair?

FYI: There was an interesting article in the New York Times on April 12, 2010.  The article was entitled “Could Health Overhaul Incentives Hurt Some?” and was written by Roni Rabin.  The article reviewed the potential impact of some provisions in the new health care legislation that focus on financial incentives for good health care outcomes (e.g., weight loss, smoking cessation).  The idea is that it is not fair for healthy people to share the cost of health care expenditures that are the result of  certain unhealthy lifestyles.  It’s sort of like good driver discounts for automobile insurance.

In my opinion, this is a very tricky issue.  For example, as I have discussed in previous entries, for many people who are overweight genetics plays a very important role; their obesity is not just the result of willful unhealthy behaviors.  As employers and insurers pursue the idea of promoting desirable behaviors, they need to be very careful not to place an unreasonable burden on people whose health problems are more the result of “bad” genes and bad luck than bad behaviors.

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