Yes to insurers reimbursing exercise programs

Senior couple on cycle ride

Thanks to Monique Serpas PT, I read an interesting article about insurance covering exercise programs. I think this should be covered or at least supplemented. Here is why, and the possible problems:

Why: more cost-effective for everyone (providing the insured does the program), better for the health of the insured (versus medications and side-effects, especially with polypharmacy), reduced disease burden not only for the country/ community, but also for the individual and their family as they age.

Problems: Adherence (how many of us join a gym but don’t make good use of it?); motivation – ties into adherence, but unless there is either a tangible reward or punishment (better health/ function, or money) I suspect there is less likelihood of participation; insurance company buy-in – because they know the stats on adherence to exercise (why pay for something most won’t keep doing?); lack of education – like Monique said in the comments, there is a lack of education and knowledge on how to lose weight or be more active safely.

Group Health (an HMO in Seattle) does this – they underwrite a good portion of EnhanceFitness for their participants, with good (published) results. I’d like to see other insurance companies do similar structured pilot programs and see what happens.

photo credit: Senior couple on cycle ride, originally uploaded by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

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