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Fitness: Physical or Fiscal?

This article was written by in Health. 10 comments.


This article is presented by Kelly Whalen, Consumerism Commentary staff writer.

The costs of health care rose dramatically in the past year for many Americans. Hewitt Associates, a global human resources consulting firm, measured an increase in group insurance premiums of 6% percent in 2009, and that’s only part of the full health care picture.

While health care reform is stalled in Congress and will not solve all the issues with the behemoth health care industry, there are actions you can take to save thousands of dollars on health care expenses.

  • An apple a day. The saying is still true, preventative care is really the best way to stay healthy. A yearly checkup with your doctor, dentist, eye doctor, and gynecologist can help catch illness or disease early as well as give your healthcare provider an understanding of what “normal,” is for you. For instance, one of my children has a normal temperature of 97.5°F, so a 98.6°F reading is actually a slightly elevated fever for her.
  • Don’t delay. Some of the largest costs to insurance companies and hospitals are patients who delay treatment. While you shouldn’t run to the doctor every time you have a mild case of the sniffles, ignoring a problem could make it harder to treat. In some cases doctors aren’t quick to make a diagnosis or need multiple tests or opinions. In those cases waiting can be damaging or deadly.
  • Avoid the emergency room. The cost of a visit to the ER is five times as expensive as a doctor’s visit according to national averages. Go to your primary care doctor, a Minute Clinic, or an Urgent Care Center instead. If you have health issues or get ill frequently look for a doctor that has weekend office hours, is available by phone, or who does house calls. (Yes, house calls do exist, Virginia.)
  • Stay fit. The foundation of good health is being in good shape. Eating well, exercising,, and sleep have a huge impact on how quickly you recover whether whether from a common cold or surgery. Getting better faster means less time out from work, so you can use those vacation days for a real vacation.
  • Clean your teeth. It sounds like something your mom would say, but keeping your teeth clean can add years to your life and reduce your medical and dental bills.
  • Give yourself a healthcare checkup. Make sure you fully understand your health care benefits and its limitations. You may be paying too much out of pocket, or too much for a plan you don’t fully use. Talk to your HR department, or insurance broker for other options. Look into Health Savings Accounts. This type of account is like an emergency fund for your healthcare expenses. If you have a Flexible Spending Account make sure you are keeping track of the money you are spending and use it before you lose it. Make sure you understand all the benefits of your insurance package. Some insurance companies may cover or offer discounts on services such as massage, acupuncture, chiropractic care, nutrition counseling, smoking cessation, weight loss training, and gym memberships.

While you may be busy or think a visit to the doctor is too expensive, it could save you thousands of dollars and years of your life. Your physical health should go hand in hand with your fiscal health so you can enjoy the fruits of your hard work for as long as possible.

Photo credit: dmason

Updated March 13, 2011 and originally published February 4, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Kelly is a mostly stay-at-home mom to four kids. You can more of her articles about personal finance at The Centsible Life. Also, you can follow Kelly on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Kyle

People and companies overlook the importance of physical fitness In reducing health care costs. It is strongly encouarged at my office as a way to reduce the costs of our health insurance. If I go for a company checkup every year I get $200 off my insurance. Staying fit will keep you feeling better as well.

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avatar Kelly

This is becoming more common now. A friend said her company was charging MORE for people who didn’t do a health assessment.

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avatar Craig

Taking care of yourself is the best way, don’t wait till a problem arise. Take your health serious the same way you may take your finances seriously. It will help you not just now but years down the road.

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avatar Kelly

Definitely! It’s good you know that even though you are young, I know a lot of people think they can eat whatever and then they hit 30 and uh oh!

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avatar Financial Samurai

Funny enough, one of the best gifts at the top of my list is DENTAL FLOSS! I love dental floss and brushing my teeth. I’ve got like 8 dental floss packs all around the house. Teeth don’t grow back. Floss!

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avatar Kelly

That is funny. Maybe you like it a little too much?

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avatar Money Funk

And urgent care is not normally as busy as an ER. Much obliged when i need to take the kids in the middle of the night.

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avatar Kelly

Good point! I didn’t think of that. Our local ER thankfully hasn’t been busy when we have had to go in, but urgent care is closer so next time we will try it.

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avatar Betty Kincaid

Kelly,

You forgot the most important component to good health-put down the fork!

Eating the right foods in moderation and breaking a sweat daily (I won’t even get into other lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking) is a requirement to staying healthy.

Don’t even talk to me about subsidizing national health care until everyone is on board with the basic principal of self-discipline.

You’re on point about HSAs and Flex accounts and if you can’t get insurance through work, look into a high deductible individual policy with an HSA. Many are surprisingly affordable.

We took a run at this issue as well in this post from a few months ago: http://bit.ly/1GrdBT

We laways enjoy the site-thanks for the info.
Control your Cash

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avatar Kelly

I mentioned it, but you are right it deserves its’ own bullet point!

I think you may be overestimating how many people don’t have self-discipline. One of the reasons I feel so many people struggle with eating well is the lack of education, availability, and cost. I don’t know that there is an easy answer to those issues, but I think our culture of junk food needs to be addressed.

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