(ARA) - Health care today is expensive, but there are ways that you can give your wallet a break. One of the best ways to make health care more affordable is to avoid the need for medical care in the first place.
More than 75 percent of health care costs are attributed to chronic illness, most of which are controllable, if not preventable. For those, here are five ways to save on health care spending so you have more money to enjoy life.
Know your numbers
It is important that you know your optimal range for health markers such as blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose. Knowing your health scores allows you to take steps to lessen your risk of chronic and costly diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Not only are such diseases a burden to national health spending, they also make a major impact on personal spending.
For instance, people with type 2 diabetes that can be controlled through diet and exercise spend about $2,000 a year. When it isn't controlled, those costs can escalate dramatically for insulin treatments, or worse, hospitalization.
Life Time, The Healthy Way of Life Company has initiated a new program called myHealthScore to bridge the gap between fitness and health care. The program provides testing, available to members and nonmembers, to measure six critical health markers: cholesterol ratio, blood pressure, glucose, triglycerides, nicotine use and body fat ratio. These metabolic markers provide a baseline from which people can set goals, or in some cases detect serious health issues that might otherwise go undetected, even with an annual doctor visit. A Life Time health adviser works with participants to move their score into an optimal range. "Results from myHealthScore give someone an inside-out view of their health," says Tom Manella, vice president of Personal Training at Life Time.
Invest in prevention
Get health screenings as advised and prevent illness with vaccines. What you spend on an annual flu shot will more than make up for costs you incur on over the counter medications, doctor's visits, and lost wages if you get sick. Likewise, an annual membership to a fitness center can cost as little as $50 a month, but being inactive and overweight costs significantly more: an additional $1,152 in medical expenses if you're an obese man and $3,613 more if you're an obese woman, according to a study published in the Journal of Health Economics.
Put your money where your mouth is
Poor oral health is often a signal of bigger health problems. The same bacteria that causes gum disease has been implicated in other major health problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and premature births, all of which can require expensive and ongoing care. The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day with a toothbrush that is replaced every three to four months and flossing every day, an investment that will cost as little as $15 a year.
Stop spending on sugar
Your sweet tooth is very, very expensive. Saving anywhere from $5 to $20 a week that you'd normally spend on sugary treats translates into savings of $1,000 a year, not to mention the calories saved, which can save additional thousands spent on taking off that extra weight later or obesity-related medical expenses.
Flaunt your fitness in front of your employer
Most health insurers provide incentives for people to take the initiative to get and stay healthy. For example at Allina Health System, one of many companies using Life Time's myHealthCheck program, employees have the potential to earn up to $1,600 in what they call "Be Fit Premium Credits." Many health plans offer a discount for people who make regular visits to a fitness center, too. Ultimately the savings can trickle down to deductible spending. The healthier you are, the less you need to see a doctor, which means out of pocket costs go down.
None of us enjoy spending money on health care expenses. Do yourself - and your wallet - a favor and begin to invest in better health. Small steps today can pay big dividends tomorrow.