Can Obesity Change California Health Insurance Rates?

According to a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health, almost 25 percent of adults in California are obese and another 37 percent are overweight to a lesser extent. Even at that, residents of California are far ahead of those in many other states.

Over the last 15 years, obesity rates have steadily climbed with almost 17 states seeing the rate of adult obesity double. It’s almost unimaginable that just two decades ago, no state had adult obesity rates above 15 percent. So, what are we doing to fight this epidemic that drives up disease and death rates? Over the past four years, not a single state has seen a remarkable decline in adult obesity rates.

California Health Insurance Rates Follow Obesity Rates

This last report showed that California’s adult obesity rates had only a slight increase to 24.8 percent up from 24.4 percent in 2010. While that doesn’t sound bad, if you compare it to 15 years ago, the obesity rate has increased a whopping 78 percent. Not surprisingly, the rate of diabetes has nearly doubled. The only positive note is that when investigators looked at rates of physical activity, only California and Texas showed increased exercise levels.

Because obesity correlates with deteriorating health and more expensive health care, health insurance companies rate up plans for those who are overweight or obese. All insurance companies have medical underwriting policies they use to evaluate your medical history before deciding whether to provide you coverage or not. The more health care statistics indicate someone of a particular weight will cost them more in medical bills, the more they charge for monthly premiums, if they agree to approve the application at all.

Bringing Down Your California Health Insurance Premiums Is Possible

CA insurance providers are totally separate companies so they use different underwriting standards. Shopping plans from several different insurers always increases your odds of finding less expensive options. Until you get your weight under control, you may need to use one of the high-deductible policies that generally have lower premiums than co-payment plans.

Some people dread comparison shopping because insurance tends to confuse most folks, but there is a smart way to get started that can save you a lot of headaches. See what you spent on health care last year and use that as a guide to what you expect to need in the future. Factor in any new health problems that may increase your expenses. If you only had an annual physical and common screening tests for disease, like colonoscopies or mammograms, new health plans cover that without applying co-payments or a deductible.

That would make it less of a financial risk to try a plan with a high deductible in exchange for low premiums. The key to getting regular preventive health care covered is to use providers considered in-network and to watch out for billing errors. Many claims that should be covered are denied because someone used the wrong billing code.

If you are taking medication, you may be able to cut what that costs you, too. Compare prices at local pharmacies. If you have Internet access, you can use the Prescription Wizard to see which pharmacy has the best price in your vicinity. Then, look for discounts. Insurance agents provide prescription discount cards and you can download them online. Costco, CVS Pharmacy, Kmart, Kroger, Rite Aid, Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club have all started discount programs, which some independent pharmacies will match.

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