All to blame for higher healthcare costs

By Jeff Myczek

At home last weekend, I was hoping for free food, clean clothes, and a made bed. Instead, my parents greeted me with a new health insurance bill, which as someone who works to pay for some of their insurance, was not a welcome present. As a healthy and young individual, I could not understand why my share of the premium had gone up, and thought to blame it on national trends. The truth is, however, that the average American often determines for themselves the lifetime cost of their healthcare, and in turn how much of their cost is then passed onto the rest of us.

While there are some factors beyond the control of the citizen that affect their average lifetime healthcare cost, personal lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and exercising often can ultimately go a long way in keeping healthcare costs for an individual low – and keep those costs from spreading to everyone else through higher insurance costs.

It’s an accepted medical concept that obesity is unhealthy, and society’s attempts to excuse it through programs such as Kirstie Alley’s “Fat Actress” only puts off what should be a national effort to get Americans to start eating healthier. You only need go to the local shopping mall food court to see that societal obesity has reached epidemic proportions.

Obesity raises the risk of heart disease, high cholesterol (that comes from all of the years of stuffing yourself with McGriddles), and high blood pressure. All of those conditions require multiple hospital visits and a plethora of medicines, raising the cost to your insurance company and therefore all of our insurance premiums. Next time all of you over 300 pounds decide to order the double Thickburger with cheese, Biggie fry, and large chocolate malt while rolling on your Rascal scooter, just keep in mind that those of us in line at Subway will end up paying for your first heart attack.

Obesity is not the only bad health condition you can ditch to reduce you health care costs. Besides passing on the large chili cheese dog, you can also pass on the next cigarette. The dangers of smoking (higher cancer risk, incidence of heart disease, stroke, etc.) have been known for decades, which makes one wonder why an individual, knowing all we do, would willingly start smoking.

Smoking, like obesity, is a health factor totally under an individual’s control, and with effort he or she can stop at any time. Rather than wait until you get a voice box, a new oxygen tank, and an iron lung, save yourself (and all of us) the future cost of your poor choice and stop smoking.

After you start eating right and throw out your Marlboros, you can save yourself some more money by starting a proper exercise habit. Get off the couch, turn off the “Unsolved Mysteries” re-runs, and go to the gym. Just as we know how bad obesity and smoking are, we also know how good exercise is. Exercise reduces your risk of heart disease, lowers your blood pressure, and may help decrease the risk of some cancers.

Exercise isn’t difficult, it doesn’t take a lot of time, and it makes you feel good when you’re done. A long-term and maintained exercise program can help raise your health level and avoid hospital visits, keeping your health care costs (and my insurance premiums) low.

The sphere of health care and personal health has a private aspect, but much of what we do personally has larger implications. If Americans voluntarily continue to be obese, smoke, and not exercise, that is their personal choice. The cost of those bad decisions will not only be borne by those who made the poor life choices, but by society as a whole through higher health care costs.

Jeff Myczek is a junior in LAS who secretly enjoys large amounts of fast food. His column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at [email protected]