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Insurance health risk assessments don't measure the rewards

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Do you speed?

I ask but already know the answer as a commuter in Tampa Bay. Of course you do. In this context, you can answer honestly. I'm no cop and I can't even hear you. But if your health insurance company asked you the same question, would you be so forthcoming?

That's the quandary faced by millions of employees across the nation as the companies send out annual health risk assessment surveys to determine if your premium should be higher than the person one cubicle over from you.

What's the merit in telling the truth if you're penalized? What's the harm in lying if no doctor's physical is required? Right now, I sit among the millions pondering those questions.

I'm overweight.

Without being specific, the handy-dandy BMI scale tells me after a year of sweat, hunger and tears, I've been able to shed enough pounds to graduate from morbidly obese to just overweight. Smaller clothes, happier life, healthy cholesterol/blood pressure/etc. Things are looking up for me.

But a change in my health insurance means I had to fill out the health risk assessment this year. I'm afraid all that effort will be missed in a mire of meaningless numbers unrelated to who I am or what I've been doing.

I'm not unhealthy. I drink on special occasions and I don't smoke. The numbers might say I could stand to be 30 (!) pounds lighter, but I'm not sold. I trained for 12 weeks and finished a half marathon last month. Before that I was running three times a week, attending weekly Weight Watchers meetings and participating in a 10,000 steps challenge at work. The health assessment factored all that in when calculating my score, but if I don't lose any more weight in the next year, what will my premium look like?

For others, there are more difficult questions. Are you happy with your job? How many hours do you actually work in week? Do you feel stressed or depressed? Do you get enough sleep?

They are questions incongruent with working in the 21st century. Who doesn't feel stress or put in extra hours to maintain their job? Who doesn't feel a little depressed from time to time? We are living in the age of uncertainty, where stagnation is death. Very few people will be able to work at the same company their whole lives and retire like their parents. That means we're all starting from scratch on a new life model. How could there be no stress in that?

Most importantly, is the fact that I am living an uncertain life going to cost me more money for my health insurance?

If so, let me be the first to say, I'm a happy, well-adjusted, 40-hour-a-week-working size 0 who doesn't smoke, drink, speed, think sad thoughts or hate her job. Thanks for the check-in. Same time next year.

— rmitchell@tampabay.com

Insurance health risk assessments don't measure the rewards 12/05/13 [Last modified: Thursday, December 5, 2013 12:40pm]

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