Cutting costs: Finding affordable health care

A study of insured and uninsured Americans showed that those without health insurance get sicker as they age until they turn 65 and qualify for Medicare, Friday, Dec. 28, 2007. But they're not likely to become as healthy as someone who had health insurance all along. (AP / CBS)

Knoxville (WVLT) -- Finding affordable health insurance.

Monday, we told you how and when increasing your out of pocket costs and shopping for private insurance can save you money.

There's not a whole lot you can do about the rising cost of health care in this country, but there is a great deal we can do as a society.

And it starts with personal responsibility.

In this week's healthy Tennessean, how the decisions you make can save us all.

Six in ten people in the United States are overweight, and a third of them are obese.

Obese people are at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and some cancers.

The direct medical cost of treating obesity in the U.S. is $93 billion, or nine percent of our national medical bill.

And those are just the costs we can calculate.

"Many times a person thinks about their diabetes or their blood pressure and they attribute that to either bad luck or bad genes, when in reality what that is, is most often related to their weight."

UT Medical Center Surgeon Greg Mancini says losing weight will obviously reduce the number of visits to the doctor, but it can dramatically cut insurance costs.

"But for most people, a ten percent weight reduction, they would see an improvement in their overall health, but for many people that does mean 20 to 40 pounds of weight loss."

As many as 70 percent of employers now offer financial incentives to employees who participate in company wellness programs.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Director of Account Management Carolyn Graves says many companies are rewarding good behavior with cash incentives and contributions toward an employee's health care account, "Get your check ups. Catch something before it gets big, for everybody concerned. You don't want to suffer through all that. And something little is easier to fix, as we well know, than the big things."

Some companies are now penalizing workers who refuse to give up bad habits, such as cigarette smoking.

Some, even charging workers who use tobacco products, higher monthly premiums.

Losing weight and quitting smoking typically have the most immediate and profound effects on a person's health.

But getting an annual check up and undergoing health screenings can help you catch problems at their earliest stages, when they're most treatable.

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